Utility Patents vs Design Patents
A utility patent covers what a product does and the creation of a new or improved product, process or machine. A design patent, however, covers the ornamental features of the article.
How Design Patents Work
We view design patents as the “gold standard” for protecting designs in the United States. Design patents last for 15 years and they can be used to stop the import of infringing articles at the border. There’s also no intent requirement for infringement.
If someone else is infringing your patent, you can stop them whether or not they know about it. This makes design patents a powerful tool against copycats.
Obtain Copyright Registrations
If you’re putting your design articles out into the marketplace, you should seriously consider building a portfolio of copyright registrations. Contrary to what you might be thinking, copyright registrations are actually not expensive and you’ll receive powerful remedies against infringement.
If you have to sue someone for infringing upon your registered copyright and you win, you will get attorney fees paid for and in addition to any harm you can recover for, you will get statutory damages – which is damages without proof of harm. These are powerful remedies to block copiers.
International Treaty for Design Patent Protection
Other countries have copyrights and design patents. In fact, now there is an international treaty that allows you to file a single design patent application. This application can serve as your design patent application throughout the world. This makes it exponentially easier to get design patent protection around the world.
There is one other piece of intellectual property protection that is available outside the United States. This is called statutory design registration. While this isn’t offered in the United States, but almost every other country in the world does. Typically, they are inexpensive to obtain, there is no substantive examination, and they last from anywhere between 10 and 25 years.
If you were selling your products into another country or manufacturing your products in another country and importing them into the U.S; a statutory design registration in the other country provides you with a powerful, local remedy against copycats in that specific country.
To conclude, if the design of your product contributes to its appeal in the marketplace, you should consider building an intellectual property protection portfolio to protect your product and your business against copycats. If you plan to conduct business overseas, take a look at statutory design registrations and in the U.S; you should consider design patents.
No matter which path you decide to pursue with your product and business, consider copyright registrations as part of your strategy.