What does a design patent protect?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the examining authority for design patent applications. A United States design patent covers the ornamental design for an object which has an established practical utility. A design patent would cover only the appearance of the article and not structural or utilitarian features.

An inventor looking to protecting their work from imitators should consider that the a design patent application would not cover the utility of the idea. The following would be protected:

  • Shape
  • Surface ornamentation

A design patent is infringed if an ordinary observer would think that the accused design is substantially the same as the design patent. The ordinary observer would be giving such attention as a purchaser who is familiar with the prior art designs. The purchaser would be deceived into believing that the accused product is the same as design patent in question.

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