As an entrepreneur and inventor, you want to be sure to protect your creations, designs, products, and business intellectual property and one of the best ways are US patents.
Here I will detail all that you need to know about the different types of patents, which patent you need to protect your particular product or invention and the disadvantages and advantages of each patent type.
Obtaining patent protection for your business is a smart move to safeguard your intellectual property and prevent competitors from stealing your designs and inventions.
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Types of patents
The United States patent and trademark office issues six different types of patents, and the three most common are utility patents, design patents and plant patents. As a business person, unless you are a horticultural expert in new live plant discoveries, you most likely will need either a utility or design patent to protect your business assets.
Utility patents protect the FUNCTIONAL aspects of an invention
90% of all patents issued are utility patents because the definitions are broad and cover machinery, processes, methods, compositions, formulas, and anything manufactured that has a useful and specific function. The invention has a utility or usefulness, thus its name- Utility patent.
The United States Patent and Trademark office defines the word “useful” as anything that has a recognizable benefit and use capability. This would include anything that is an improvement to an existing invention.
When your patent application is being reviewed, it will be compared to other inventions and functions, and it will need to be deemed novel, i.e., new, and not obvious, and specific. However, the function of the patent does not have to be immediately obvious to the user or consumer.
Design patent protects the APPEARANCE of an item
Design patents are issued to protect the look, appearance, designs, shape, or general ornamentation of a new product invention.
As opposed to the criteria for a utility patent, which is to prove the usefulness of the invention, a design patent must be nonfunctional in its commercial advantage. Otherwise, the utility patent would be necessary for protection.
But just like the utility patent, the criteria for design patents are granted only for those appearances that are new, specific, and not obvious.
Differences between design and utility patents
The main difference between design and utility patents is the protection that they offer. Utility patents protect the “usefulness” only of your invention. Design patents protect only the “appearance” of your invention.
An example is that a utility patent would give a person full control over his or her invention, while a design patent will protect your new product designs or new designs for existing products.
While the specific advantage of your invention protected, either usefulness or appearance is different; the protection is the similar but not the same.
Utility patents last 20 years from the filing date but design patents last 15 years.
Also, utility patents require maintenance fees to be paid at regular intervals, but design patents require no additional latency payments.
Costs to Obtain
Design patents are generally less expensive and faster to obtain than utility patents.
Utility patents are more expensive to obtain the design patent and much more difficult for approval. In fact, you should expect that the patent office will initially reject your utility patent application and you will need to respond before your patent application is ultimately approved.
Design patents protect the much narrower scope of appearance since they will only protect the design shown in the patent application drawing and other designs which are substantially similar.
Design patent protection
Design patents are cheaper and easier to obtain the utility patents. However, they are the least common type of patent application filed with the US patent office.
- less expensive than a utility patent
- Faster approval at the US patent office
- Doesn’t protect the functional features of your product invention
- Easily sidestepped by competitors changing the design only slightly to avoid patent infringement
- Difficult to protect the additional product variations of your original design.
Utility patent protection
- protects the functional benefits of your invention
- gives broad patent protection, making it difficult for competitors to avoid patent infringement
- can protect multiple variations of a product with a single utility patent.
- more expensive than design patents
- takes much longer to receive patent protection approval
- does not protect the aesthetic and ornamental features of your product invention.
FAQ Design and Utility Patents
What is the cost of patents?
The cost to apply for a patent is only part of your total patent fees. You need to budget additional application revisions, patent and maintenance fees and possible prosecution fees for those who infringe upon your patent. This is all in addition to patent application fees and government charges.
Design patent fee applications at my recommended source LegalZoom, start at $899 plus your federal patent filing fees.
Utility patents are often applied for in 2 steps. 1st, a provisional patent application is filed then a complete utility patent application package. The advantage of the two-step application process is that you will receive some preliminary protections for your invention and the earliest filing date of record. Provisional applications for patents start at $199 plus the government filing fee, and utility patents begin at $699 plus applicable filing fees.
How do I get a Utility or design patent?
To obtain either a utility or design patent, you must apply with the United States patent and trademark office. This is a legal document that can be quite complex to understand and complete correctly.
Thus I recommend you utilize the low-cost legal services at Legalzoom. They will advise you on which patent type you need for maximum protection either a utility or design patent. Additionally, they will complete the application and file it on your behalf for your patent application approval.
Which patents harder to get design or utility?
Utility patents are much more difficult to receive. Then design patents. Design patents are often approved quickly and on the 1st application, whereas utility patents are almost never accepted on the 1st application and require additional revised applications and waiting time.
What type of patent do I need utility or design?
That depends on if you want to protect either the visual look and appearance of your product, which would require a design patent or the functionality or utility of that item, which would need utility patent.
How long do patents last?
The length of protection depends upon the type of patent that you obtain. A design patent last 15 years from the date the design patent is granted. Whereas a utility patent is usually given for 20 years from the date the patent application is filed. Note these are two different starting dates and number of years of protection.
Can I get both a design and utility patent?
Sometimes, your best protection is with to patents one for the utility and functionality of your invention and the other for the design and ornamentation of the product. Remember that if only a design patent is filed. The function and utility of your product are not protected in less also a utility patent is filed for protection of both the appearance and function of your product invention.
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