A patent is a form of intellectual property right that protects an invention against unauthorized reproduction, use, copy, or sale. Patents may cover new and useful processes, machines, manufactured items, compositions of matter, designs, or any improvements on them. Patentable inventions must be new and non-obvious. Patents are territorial and require registration in each jurisdiction where protection is sought.
The most common types of patents are utility patents and design patents. The essential distinction between design and utility patents is the difference in protecting “How it looks” (design) vs. “How it works” (utility).
A utility patent protects the functional aspects of a product or process. Examples of utility patents are machines (computers, engines), articles of manufacture, or processes (software).
A design patent protects the non-functional appearance and unique visual qualities of an item. To qualify for a design patent, the design of the object must be new, visually unique and original.
For example, a product such as a shoe might be protected by both a design patent and a utility patent. If a shoe enables an athlete to run more quickly due to some technical innovation, the invention might qualify for the utility patent. If the shoe also has an original, new, and non-functional design, the inventor might also obtain a design patent.
Example of Utility patent
(US 10,798,988 B2 from USPTO database)
Example of Design Patent
(US D545,555 S from USPTO database)
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