Design Patents: An AnalogyMay 18, 2018

A recent Webinar moderated by Gene Quinn of titled, “Strategic Use of Design Patents”, analogized a design patent to a tool in a tool box. This analogy is intriguing. For example, a utility patent could be considered a hammer, as it is useful in a wide array of applications and delivers a devastating impact when swung effectively. A design patent then, is more like a chisel. The chisel is useful in a narrower array of applications but is uniquely useful in delivering an accurate impact when leveraged properly. Thus, it follows, if one seeks to deliver an accurate and devastating impact, all one needs to do is to combine the hammer with the chisel.

A design patent is a form of legal protection granted to the ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Ornamental designs of jewelry, furniture, beverage containers, and computer icons are examples of objects that are covered by design patents.

Our experience prosecuting design patent applications indicates most design patent applications issue as design patents within 12 to 18 months, which is much less time than the 2+ years it typically takes for a utility patent application to issue. Design patents are also much cheaper to obtain than utility patents.

Design patents offer important protection for many clients whose inventions are mechanical in nature and are uniquely useful in preventing competitors from knocking off the aesthetic look of a company’s tangible product.

While there are unique situations that warrant filing solely for design patent protection, more often we encourage our clients to consider filing for both design patent protection and utility patent protection.

The decreased pendency time it takes for a design patent to issue offers our clients a seemingly immediate means to assert a valid patent right against infringers while examination of any utility patent applications is still ongoing. We find a design patent simply gives our clients more leverage when negotiating with knock-off artists and infringers.

Are you looking to add more tools to your intellectual property toolbox? Ask us about whether pursuing design patent protection is right for your invention by calling (515) 288-3667.

Gregory “Lars” Gunnerson is a Patent Attorney in the Mechanical and Electrical Patent Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit or contact Lars directly via email

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