After the recent wars between Apple and Samsung, the patent world has learned that design patents offer stronger protection than conventionally believed. This keeps them on the list of protection strategies to consider for new products. The allowance rate for design patents is 80%, which is 30% higher than for utility patent applications. The overall cost can be as little as 10% of the cost of prosecuting and maintaining a utility patent.
If you are interested in exploring this avenue, keep in mind that some product categories are better candidates than others for design patent protection. For example, automobile and sneaker manufacturers strategically use design patents in their overall strategy. Other product cateogries that are good candidates for a design patent include:
- Cooking utensils
- Consumer goods
- Smart phones
- Graphical interfaces
Design patents are particularly useful for product packaging (such as container shapes). It bolsters trademark (branding) and trade dress protection efforts, allowing customers to identify your distinctive product by its branded packaging without confusion with similar looking competitor products.
If your goal is to keep knock-offs out of the market, design patents are a great option. Since design patents focus on shape, contours, and surface ornamentation, they protect against look-alike products, which means they won’t be very effective if your goal is to protect the idea behind a product.