What is the Difference Between a Utility Patent and a Design Patent?


Utility Patents – A utility patent protects the structure, composition, or function of an invention. A utility patent can protect a physical device, a step-by-step method (which can be used to cover things like software or methods of manufacturing chemicals), or a composition of matter (e.g., biological or chemical).

  • Generally speaking, a utility patent lasts 20 years from the earliest filing date.
  • Maintenance fees must be paid 3-1/2, 7-1/2, and 11-1/2 years after the paid was issued.
  • Utility patents are more expensive and difficult to obtain than a design patent.
  • You should always expect the Patent Office to initially reject your utility patent application, and you should expect to respond to at least one rejection before your application is possibly allowed.
  • A utility patent can have either broad or narrow protection depending on how broad the patent’s claims are.

Design Patents – A design patent is used to protect the ornamental and non-functional aesthetics of a product. It protects the look of a product, which can include coloration if you like.

  • A design patent will last 14 years if it was filed before May 13, 2015, and it will last 15 years if it was filed on or after May 13, 2015.
  • A design patent does not require any maintenance fee payments after the patent is issued.
  • A design patent is generally less expensive and faster to obtain than a utility patent.
  • However, a design patent is relatively narrow in scope and will only protect the design shown in the patent and other designs which are substantially similar.

Related Topics:

Can I Protect My Invention with Both a Utility Patent and a Design Patent?

What Can I Patent?

What is a Provisional Patent Application?


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