Two Main Patent Types: Utility and Design Patents
There are two main types of patents granted by the U.S. Patent Office: design patents and utility patents. Determining which type of patent applies to your invention can be crucial to receiving adequate protection for your invention. While a utility patent is by far the most common type of patent used to protect inventions, a design patent should not be overlooked for certain types of invention. Below is a discussion regarding the differences between a design patent and a utility patent.
Utility Patent Protection (Protects Function)
Utility patent applications are the most common type of patent application filed with the U.S. Patent Office. While utility patent applications are more expensive than design patent applications, a utility patent typically will protect your invention better than a design patent. Below is a summary of the benefits and detriments of utility patents:
i. Benefits of Utility Patents
- Protects the functional aspects of an invention.
- Can provide broad patent protection making it difficult for a
competing product to avoid
- Capable of protecting many different variations of a product with a single utility patent.
ii. Detriments of Utility Patents
- More expensive than a design patent.
- Takes longer to receive patent protection (normally 2-3 years).
- Does not protect the ornamental features of an invention.
Design Patent Protection (Protects Appearance)
Design patent applications are the least common type of patent application filed with the U.S. Patent Office. However, they can be easier and cheaper than utility patent protection. Below is a summary of the benefits and detriments of design patents:
i. Benefits of Design Patents
- Cheaper than utility patent.
- Usually faster patent protection at the U.S. Patent Office (normally
between 1-2 years).
- If the main feature of the new product is the appearance (i.e. ornamental design), then a design patent will protect this main feature.
ii. Detriments of Design Patents
- Design patents do not protect the
functional features of an invention (most inventions have functional
- Design patents can be relatively easy to design around by simply
changing the overall appearance of the competing product.
- Difficult to protect different variations of product.
When to File Both a Design Patent Application
and a Utility Patent Application
There are situations when an invention can receive adequate patent protection with a utility patent and a design patent. If your invention has a unique structure/function coupled with a unique ornamental design, then you should consider filing both a utility patent application and a design patent application. This can be a difficult situation and it is recommended that you speak with a patent attorney prior to choosing this path. Both design and utility patent applications will provide you with “patent pending“ while they are pending at the Patent Office.
Still Have Questions About Patent Types?
If you still have questions about what type of patent protection you should seek for your invention, complete our Invention Disclosure Form and send to us for review. We will contact you to discuss what type of patent application is best for your invention (or if you should consider filing both a utility patent application and a design patent application).