U.S. Design Patent 1,000,000September 28, 2023

On September 26, 2023, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted the 1 millionth design patent to Agustina Huckaby from Fort Worth Texas.  The title of this invention is Dispensing Comb, and it looks like this:

Design patents protect the ornamental appearance of an object, apart from its functionality. The term for a design patent is 15 years from the date of issuance, and no government maintenance fees are required (as with utility patents).

Design patents are becoming more common.  In the past 5 years, design patent applications have increased 20%, to more than 50,000 applications in 2022.  These applications are examined by a specialized group of over 300 examiners in the U.S. Patent Office.  Design patents are typically less expensive to obtain, and proceed more quickly through examination, as compared to utility patent applications.

Some inventions are protectable with both a utility patent for the structure and function, and a design patent for how it looks.  Both types of patents are valuable assets to the owner who wishes to protect the time and cost investments in developing new inventions.  In the past, design applications were considered to have a narrow scope of protection, but that narrative is countered by the increase in design applications being filed, and by the litigation for infringement.  For example, the automobile, shoe, and cell phone industries rely heavily on design patents to protect the looks of their products.

Infringement of a design patent is measured by the ordinary observer test.  This test involves a visual comparison of the patented design with the accused product. If the accused device appears substantially similar to the patented design in the eye of an ordinary observer, then infringement exists.

Obtaining a design patent will force a competitor to design around the patented design, rather than making a carbon copy.  While there are many nuances to design patents and design patent applications, the value of a design patent adds to a company asset portfolio.

Protection for industrial designs are also available in many foreign countries.

If you are interested in pursuing patent protection for your inventions and innovations, including design and/or utility patents, please contact an attorney at McKee, Voorhees, & Sease, PLC.  We will be happy to discuss the options and costs, and be a part of your team.

Kirk Hartung is a member of the Mechanical Patent Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit  www.ipmvs.com or contact Kirk directly via email at kirk.hartung@ipmvs.com.

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