As we’ve discussed elsewhere, design patents cover how an invention looks, while utility patents cover how an invention works. However, there are a number of additional technical and practical differences between design and utility patents.
Technical Differences Between Design Patents and Utility Patents
Some of the differences in how the USPTO handles design versus utility patents include:
- Design patents are effective for 15 years, while utility patents are effective for 20 years.
- Design patents don’t require the payment of maintenance fees, while utility patents do.
- Design patents may only include a single claim, while utility patents may incorporate multiple claims.
- International applications for design patents are filed under the Hague Agreement, while international applications for utility patents are filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
- Design patents are not eligible for Requests for Continued Examination (RCE).
Practical Differences Between Design Patents and Utility Patents
When it comes to the realities of applying for design patents when compared to utility patents:
- Design patents are usually cheaper to obtain than utility patents.
- Design patents are typically issued more quickly than utility patents.
- Utility patents tend to survive validity challenges more often.
- Utility patents can be difficult to enforce, but it’s even more difficult to enforce design patents.
There are also many more technical and practical differences to consider, which an experienced patent attorney can outline for you if you are considering applying for a design patent.