I've been researching how to protect my product idea, and have narrowed it down to only one possibility - the design patent.
It's been a challenge to digest and comprehend exactly how a product can get a design patent.
After reading a number of articles, talking with legalzoom.com's people, and examining the actual US laws about design patents I'm still very unsure of what qualifies.
I understand you CAN'T just take a product, paint it a different color and patent it as a new product... BUT If you take an existing product and add an "original" and "ornamental" design to it this somehow qualifies.
The example I read that was the easiest to understand was a clock face. You can patent an original clock face design with a design patent, but what if you were the first person to create a line of neon colored clocks? Or you created the first line of clock faces with various patterns (stripes, plaid, multicolored, ect)? This is very similar to the product I'm trying to create. It's an existing product that only exists in black or silver. I know a new line of vibrantly colored, and uniquly designed versions of this product would sell/get licensed to major retailers, but can I protect this from getting knocked off overnight?
Does anyone have any experience with design patents?
Thanks in advance for any help!
The quote from Legalzoom.com's design patent requirements:
Generally, a design must satisfy the following to be patentable:
- It is "part" of the article. That is, the design is intertwined and inseparable from the item. For example, the label design on a bottle would not qualify, but the bottle itself could, if uniquely shaped, and as long as that shape does not affect the bottle's function.
- It is purely ornamental. The design cannot be responsible for the article's function, including new or improved use. A good test is to ask, "Would the article work the same way if the design were removed or changed?" If the answer is that removing the design would not alter the function, then you are in the realm of the design patent. If the item would work differently (or not at all) with the design element removed, the design will not qualify for design patent protection (but may qualify for a utility patent).
To return to the bottle example above, if the new shape enables spill-proof pouring, this would be a functional change pointing toward a utility patent.
The law also requires a patentable design to be "original" (cannot simulate a well-known or naturally occurring object or person, and cannot be obvious in light of pre-existing designs) as well as not offensive to any race, religion, sex, ethnic group or nationality.