Utility vs. Design Patent

Industry expert Tony O'Lenick looks at the difference between a utility and a design patent.

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States, or in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees.

A utility patent may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof. A design patent may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.

Products may be covered by many patents. For example, consider a lipstick. The lipstick case may be the topic of a design patent if it is a new ornamental design, the formulation may also be covered by a utility patent, and an ingredient in the formulation may be covered by a different patent covering a new and useful chemical contained therein.

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