why do patents expire?

Why Do Patents Expire?

If you've spent the time and money to make an invention and patent it, you might be wondering: why do patents expire? Why doesn't the USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) allow patents to last forever? Patents offer inventors intellectual property rights that last for a limited period of time. For example, utility patents last for 20 years, while design patents last for 15 years. So, why does a patent expire? We will cover this below.

Why Do Patents Expire?

Patents expire because allowing them to last for too long places a constraint on others who want to improve upon existing technology. Current patent law allows inventors to recoup their investment and profit from their invention without slowing down innovation.

There has to be a balance between protecting the rights of inventors to profit from the hard work that it took them to produce the invention and the right of the public to improve existing technology and making it more accessible to the public. Having patents that last forever keeps the price of new technology high and keeps it out of the hands of the average person.

Current patent law strikes a balance between the right of the inventor to control who uses, makes, and sells his invention and the right of the public to exploit new technology and to improve upon it.

Just imagine a world where inventors where granted unlimited monopolies over their inventions. The telephone would still have been patented and everyone who wants to design a new phone or improve upon an existing one would have to obtain the permission of the original inventor. This slows down the progression of technological advances.

Utility patents give inventors a monopoly over their invention that lasts for 20 years from the date an applicant files a utility patent application. Design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent application.

So, why do inventors choose to patent their inventions? Inventors patent their inventions to stop others from copying and reproducing their inventions without their consent. Having a utility patent or design patent over an invention allows an inventor to stop others from using, making, and selling the patented invention for a limited period of time.

For utility patents, this limited period of time is 20 years and for design patents, it's 15 years. Utility patents protect how inventions work, as well as the functional aspects of an invention. Design patents protect how an invention looks or the aesthetics or appearance of an object.

When Do Patents Expire?

Utility Patents

The answer to this question depends on what kind of patent an inventor has. Let's start with utility patents. Utility patents can expire for two reasons. The first reason a utility patent expires is if the patent term has expired. Said differently, a utility patent expires if 20 years have passed since the inventor filed a patent application.

Once a utility patent expires, the invention falls into the public domain, allowing anyone to use, make, and sell the patent invention without having to obtain the express consent of the patent holder. The second reason a utility patent expires if the patent holder does not pay maintenance fees.

Maintenance fees are fees that are required to be paid by a utility patent holder at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years to keep the patent as granted. If a utility patent holder fails to pay these fees, the patent expires and falls into the public domain.

Design Patents

Design patents expire after 15 years pass since the patent office granted the design patent. Design patents can only expire for one reason and that reason is the patent term has expired, meaning that 15 years have passed since the patent office has granted an inventor's design patent application. In the United States, a design patent cannot expire for non-payment of maintenance fees because maintenance fees are not required for design patents, they are only required for utility patents.

Once a design patent expires, the design falls into the public domain, meaning the inventor can no longer stop others from using, making, and selling the patented design under patent law. That said, don't rush to use the once patented design because the design may still be protected under other intellectual property laws, such as copyright law.

What Happens When a Patent on an Invention Expires?

When a patent on an invention expires, the invention falls into the public domaining, meaning that an inventor loses the right to stop others from using, making, and selling the patent invention. The public can basically, use, make, and sell the once patented invention without having to obtain the consent of the patent holder to do so.

When a patent expires, the market is often flooded with copies of the once patented product. That said, just because a patent expires does not mean that the original inventor has to stop making his product, he can continue to do so, but he should expect some competition from others who are now able to make the product without having to worry about the inventor stopping them from doing so.

Can a Patent be Renewed After it Expires?

Whether an inventor can renew a patent after it expires depends on why the patent expired. For example, if a utility patent expires for nonpayment of maintenance fees, a patent holder may be able to renew the patent by paying the outstanding maintenance fees that are due on the patent. However, if a utility patent expires because the patent term has ended, a patent holder cannot renew the patent for the expiration of the patent term. That said, design patents can only expire if the patent term has expired. Once a design patent expires, it cannot be renewed.

What Can an Inventor Do After His Patent Expires?

If an inventor knows that his patent is about to expire or has already expired, he can try to patent an improvement to an invention. The patent office allows inventors to patent improvements to existing inventions. As such, if the inventor has figured out a new and nonobvious way to improve his current invention, he can seek to patent the improvement to his invention by preparing a new patent application and filing it with the USPTO.

Can an Inventor Re-patent an Existing Patent?

Unfortunately, an inventor is not permitted to re-patent an existing patent. This is so because once a patent expires, the invention falls into the public domain, becoming prior art. Prior art prohibits inventors from patenting the same invention. So, if you have a patent on an invention and that patent is expired, you cannot renew it. That said, if you figure out a way to improve the invention, you may be able to obtain an improvement patent on the invention provided that your improvement qualifies for a patent.

How to Check if a Patent has Expired?

Anyone can check if a patent has expired by heading over to the USPTO website and heading over to the patent section. You will see a tool that allows you to conduct a search of the patent database. Enter the number of the patent or the name of the patent that you want to check on and you'll be able to retrieve all of the information about the patent, including the filing date of the patent application, the grant dates, as well as the expiration date of the patent.

Why Does a Patent Expire?

By now, you should know that a patent expires for one of two reasons. Either the patent term has expired or the patent has expired for nonpayment of maintenance fees. Once the patent term expires, the patent cannot be renewed and falls in the public domain. Patent law wants inventors to be able to recoup their expenses for developing the invention, as well as allowing them to profit for a limited time. But, it does not want inventors to restrict others from using the patented technology for too long, as such patents expire. There are other reasons why patents expire that we covered in the article above, so if you're interested in learning more read the section covering why do patents expire. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


What do design patents protect?

What Do Design Patents Protect?

Whether you have a design that you want to protect with a design patent or you're just wondering what design patents protect, you've come to the right place. We will explain the types of patents the patent office offers, as well as what does a design patent protect?

Design patents have proven to be very powerful, especially in recent times, this leads people to ask the question: what do design patents protect? We offer a detailed answer to this question below.

What Do Design Patents Protect?

Design patents protect how an invention looks and not how it works. They protect the aesthetics or appearance of an object. Design patents are often ignored because the protection they offer is significantly more limited than that of utility patents. That said, design patents allow inventors of new designs to stop others from copying, using, or selling the patented design for a limited period of time (usually 15 years for design patents).

Design patents only protect designs that are applied to an object. Design patents do not protect the object itself, they do not protect how the invention works. So by now, you might be wondering what utility patents protect? Utility patents protect how an invention works and how the invention is used by the end-user.

So, if you have nail clippers, a design patent may protect the unique appearance of the nail clippers, while the utility patent protects how the nail clippers work. Hopefully, this simple example helps puts things into perspective.

So, how does an inventor obtain a design patent? An inventor obtains a design patent by preparing and filing a design patent application with the USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office). An inventor can only protect one design with each design patent application.

So, let's use our nail clipper example. If an inventor has multiple nail clipper design that he wants to protect, he must use separate design patent applications to protect each unique design. Patent law does allow inventors to protect multiple variations of the same design, but note that trying to patent multiple variations of the same design with one patent application could cause a lot of trouble. As such, smart inventors only include one unique design per design patent application without any variations of the design.

That said, some inventions may qualify for both a design patent, as well as a utility patent. The design patent protects the appearance of the invention, while the utility patent would protect how the invention works.

Coming back to our nail clipper example. To protect the design of the nail clippers, an applicant would have to file a design patent application to protect the way the nail clippers work. Then, the applicant would have to file a separate utility patent to protect how the nail clippers work. Of course, to obtain both patents, an applicant will have to ensure that both the design and function meet the requirements for patentability.

What Qualifies For a Design Patent?

For a design to qualify for a design patent, the design must be novel (new), nonobvious, it must be attached to a physical object, and the inventor has to be the individual who invented the design. So, what does it mean for a design to be new? For a design to satisfy the novel requirement, the design must have never been patented before and not have been publicly disclosed.

The nonobviousness requirement requires a design to not be obvious. The obviousness of a design is judged by the patent examiner. The patent examiner determines whether an ordinary person familiar in the field of the design would have believed the design to be obvious. If the patent examiner determines that an ordinary person would have found the design to be obvious, the patent examiner may reject the design patent application.

The third requirement is that the design must be attached to a physical object, meaning that the design must be embedded into an object, such as a product, shirt, or other tangible items.

The fourth requirement is that the inventor actually is the individual who invented the design. An inventor cannot take someone else's design and pass it off as their own. The inventor must be the person who created the design to be able to patent it.

How Long Do Design Patents Last?

How long a design patent lasts depends on when an applicant filed his design patent application. For patents that are granted based on an application filed on or after May 13, 2015, the design patent lasts for 15 years from the date the patent office granted the patent. For patents that are granted based on an application filed before May 13, 2015, the design patent lasts for 14 years from the date the patent office granted the patent.

For example, if an inventor filed a design patent application on May 30, 2015, and the patent office granted the patent on January 1, 2016, the design patent will last for 15 years from January 1, 2016. This means that the design patent expires on January 1, 2031.

On the other hand, if an inventor files a design patent application on May 10, 2015, and the patent office grants the patent on January 1, 2016, the design patent will last for 14 years from January 1, 2016. This means that the design patent expires on January 1, 2030.

Do Design Patents Expire?

Unfortunately for inventors, yes design patents do expire. As mentioned previously, design patents that were filed for on or after May 13, 2015, expire 15 years from the date the patent office grants the design patent application. For design patents that we filed before May 13, 2015, the design patent expires 14 years from the date the patent office grants the design patent application.

Can a Design Patent Be Renewed After it Expires?

Once a design patent expires, it expires for good. An inventor cannot renew a design patent that has expired. Once a design patent expires, the design patent falls into the public domain. So, others can use the design without breaking any patent laws. That said, if you want to use a design that was once protected by a design patent, make sure that the design is not protected by other intellectual property laws, such as U.S Copyright Law.

How Much Do Design Patents Cost?

In the United States, whether an inventor seeks a design patent or a utility patent, he should be ready to spend a decent amount of money protecting his invention. That said, design patents are significantly less expensive to obtain than utility patents.

Patent Rebel estimates that obtaining a design patent in the United States costs anywhere between $1,750 to $4,500. The cost difference in our estimate is based on how much the patent attorney you hire will charge you.

Here is a quick breakdown of the costs you should expect to pay to obtain a design patent.

  • USPTO Filing Fees: $50 – $200
  • USPTO Search Fees: $40 – $160
  • USPTO Examination Fees: $150 – $600
  • USPTO Maintenance Fees: No Maintenance fees for design patents
  • Attorneys Fees: $1,500 – $3,500

Fortunately for applicants seeking a design patent, design patent holders are not liable for paying maintenance fees to keep their design patent as granted. Maintenance fees in the U.S only apply to utility patent holders. Maintenance fees cost thousands of dollars and have to be paid throughout the life of a utility patent.

Why Do Inventors Obtain Design Patents?

Inventors obtain design patents to protect their new and unique designs from being copied by others. Obtain a design patent over a design allows the design patent holder to stop others from using, copying, and selling the patented design for a limited period of time often referred to as the patent term.

If someone else uses or copies an inventor's patented design, the design patent holder will be able to send them a cease and desist letter, asking them to stop selling or copying the infringing design. If the other party does not stop copying or selling your design, you can sue them for patent infringement in federal court. If you successfully prove patent infringement, you can obtain a court order, ordering the party that's infringing on your design patent to stop its infringing use.

What Does a Design Patent Protect?

By now, you should know that a design patent protects how an invention looks. A design patent protects the appearance or aesthetics of an object. That said, a design patent does not last forever. Design patents typically last for 15 years, however, the patent term depends on when the design patent application was filed. If you need a refresh, check out the section above that talks about the design patent term expiration. A design patent is a powerful intellectual property right that an inventor can obtain to protect his design from being copied and used by others without the inventor's express permission. That said, if you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


Do design patents have maintenance fees?

Do Design Patents Have Maintenance Fees?

Whether you've patented your design with a design patent or you're thinking about obtaining a design patent, you probably heard that some patents require the payment of maintenance fees. So, do you have to pay maintenance fees for a design patent? We will answer this question below.

Do Design Patents Have Maintenance Fees?

In the United States, design patents do not have maintenance fees. Maintenance fees are only required for utility patents. The patent office only requires utility patent holders to pay maintenance fees to keep their patents from expiring, they aren't required for any other type of patent in the United States.

So, what exactly are patent maintenance fees and why are they required for utility patents? Maintenance fees are periodic fees that the patent office requires patent holders to pay to keep their patents as granted. Maintenance fees are required at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years. The maintenance fees go up at every period, requiring the patent holder to pay more money to keep his patent from expiring.

The patent office requires patent holders to pay maintenance fees to fund the examination of new patent applications. That said, by imposing maintenance fees, many patent holders relinquish their patent rights because they can't or don't want to pay the maintenance fees, this frees up new technology for others to use.

What Do Design Patents Protect?

Design patents are issued by the patent to protect the aesthetics or appearance of an invention. Said differently, design patents protect how an invention looks and not how it works. Utility patents protect how an invention works. Design patents often seek design patents to stop others from copying their designs and selling them as their own. Here is a great article to understand what design patents protect!

How Much Do Design Patents Cost?

In the United States, here are the following costs associated with obtaining a design patent:

  • USPTO Filing Fees: $50 - $200
  • USPTO Search Fees: $40 - $160
  • USPTO Examination Fees: $150 - $600
  • USPTO Maintenance Fees: No Maintenance fees for design patents
  • Attorneys Fees: $1,500 - $3,500

So, if you have a design that you want to protect, you should expect to pay anywhere from $1,740 to $4,460 to patent your design in the United States. Just remember that the fees we summarized including having an attorney assist you with the preparation and filing of your design patent application.

Although applicants are not required to hire a design patent attorney, the patent office encourages them to hire an attorney to assist them with the preparation, filing, and prosecution of their patent application. Check out this awesome article on the costs of patenting your invention.

Do Design Patents Expire?

Unfortunately for design patent holders, design patents do expire. The patent office grants design patents that last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants an inventor's design patent application.

During the 15-year patent term, the holder of a design patent can stop others from using, making, and selling the patented design. This allows the inventor of the design to exclusively profit from his design. Once a design patent expires, it cannot be renewed and the design falls into the public domain. Once the design can be public, anyone can use the design unless the design is protected by another form of intellectual property (IP) protection. This article has some excellent information on the expiration of design patents.

Can You Protect an Invention with Both a Design Patent and Utility Patent?

Some inventions qualify for both design patent protection, as well as utility patent protection. The design patent would protect the appearance of the invention, while the utility patent will protect the function of the invention or how the invention works.

If you have dual patent protection, you will have to pay maintenance fees for the utility patent. However, you won't have to pay fees to maintain the design patent. In the event that you don't pay the maintenance fees for the utility patent, the design patent will remain in effect only to protect the appearance or aesthetics of the invention.

Here is a great article for those considering both a design patent and utility patent to protect their invention.

Why Does the USPTO Charge Maintenance Fees?

The USPTO charges maintenance fees to generate the revenue required to run the patent office. A large sum of the maintenance fees is used to examine new patent applications. Also, by charging maintenance fees, the patent office frees up patented technology.

We say this because many inventors patent inventions and decide later down the road that they don't want to or can't make the maintenance fees. If they decide not to pay them, the patent expires, allowing others to make use of the once patented invention.

For some inventors, it's just not worth it to make the maintenance fees associated with their utility patent. For example, if the invention or patented product is not selling well, it doesn't make sense to pay thousands of dollars to maintain a patent to keep it in effect.

Whether you're considering paying maintenance fees on an invention that you've already patented or you're considering obtaining a utility patent, keep in mind that maintenance fees are pretty expensive, so unless you have an invention that you know you'll be able to profit from, it is sometimes wise to forgo patenting your invention or paying the maintenance fees. That said, ask your attorney about what you should do if you're in this situation.

How Often Are Maintenance Fees Due?

For a design patent issued by the USPTO, an inventor is not required to pay any maintenance fees. However, if you have a utility patent, you will have to pay maintenance fees that are due at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years. Maintenance fees range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.

How Are Maintenance Fees Paid?

Maintenance fees can be paid by heading over to the USPTO Maintenance Fee Payment Center. Once you visit the site, you will be prompted to enter your patent number, as well as the application number. You will then be sent to a page where you can make the maintenance fee payments that are due on your patent.

Do Design Patents Have to be Renewed?

Fortunately for design patent holders, design patents do not have to be renewed. They remain in effect throughout the 15-year patent term without the inventor having to renew them or pay maintenance fees to maintain them. That said, once a design patent expires, it cannot be renewed because the design falls into the public domain.

So, if you're an inventor and you have a design that's important to your business, try coming up with a design that's similar enough to appeal to your customers yet different enough to qualify for a design patent.

Can You Protect a Design Without a Design Patent?

If you have a design that you want to protect, ask your attorney about the possibility of protecting it under copyright law. Some designs that qualify for a design patent may also qualify for copyright protection.

For a design to qualify for copyright protection it must be applied to a medium, such as paper, shirt, or any other object. If you have such a design, it may be automatically protected under copyright law, but you may benefit from registering it with the copyright office for enhanced protection. Registering a copyright is fairly inexpensive and maybe a good way to protect a design.

Design Patent Maintenance Fees

By now, inventors should know that they are not required to pay maintenance fees for design patents issued by the USPTO. Maintenance fees are only required to keep utility patents granted by the patent office. That said, design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants them. Once a design patent expires, it cannot be renewed and becomes part of the public domain. So, if you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


Do design patents expire?

Do Design Patents Expire?

Whether you're currently working on a design that you want to protect with a design patent or you've already patented your design, you might be wondering when does a design patent expire? We will answer this question below.

Do Design Patents Expire?

According to the USTPO, yes, design patents expire 15 years from the date that the USPTO grants a design patent. The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) is the entity responsible for granting inventor design patents, as well as other types of patents.

The patent term for design patent applications that were filed on or after May 13, 2015, have a patent term that lasts for 15 years from the date the patent office grants the design patent application. That said, this was a new change to patent law. Design patent application filed before May 13, 2015, last for 14 years from the date the patent office granted a design patent. So, just keep in mind that the law did change, so look at the date of the patent application filing date to determine the patent term.

Why is it Important to Know When Design Patents Expire?

It's important to know when design patents expire because a design patent holder will no longer be able to stop others from using, making, and selling the patented design once a design patent expires.

While a design patent is still active (has not expired), the design patent holder is able to stop others from using, making, copying, and selling the patented design. This allows the inventor of the design to exclusively profit from the patented design.

If a party copies, sells or otherwise infringes upon the inventor's design, the inventor can send them a cease and desist letter to stop using his design. If the party does not stop, the inventor can sue the party for patent infringement in federal court. If the inventor is successful in the lawsuit, he may be able to obtain a court order, ordering the party copying or selling the design to stop such activities.

Once a design patent expires, the patent holder loses the right to exclude others from using and selling the once patented design. The patent holder will no longer be able to stop others from copying and selling the design because the design becomes part of the public domain.

This may open the door for others to copy and profit from the design. That said, copyright law may still offer some protection over the once patented design, so ask your lawyer if your design is still protected under U.S Copyright Law.

What Happens When a Design Patent Expires?

By now, you probably know that while a design patent is in effect, an inventor can stop others from making and selling a design that's the same as or similar to the one that an inventor has patented. So, what happens when a design patent expires 14 or 15 years after the patent office granted the patent?

When a design patent expires, the patent holder loses patent protection over his invention and the invention falls into the public domain. Once a design is in the public domain, people can often freely copy the design without having to obtain the express consent of the patent holder.

Can a Design Patent Be Renewed After it Expires?

Unfortunately, one a design patent expires, it cannot be renewed. This is so because unlike utility patents which can expire due to nonpayment of maintenance fees, design patents do not have maintenance, so they usually expire due to the expiration of the patent term. Once a design patent expires due to the expiration of the 15-year patent term, a patent holder cannot renew the patent.

If you have a design and the patent on that design expired, try to come up with a new design that's similar, yet different enough to convince the patent office to grant you a design patent.

What Do Design Patents Protect?

Design patents protect how an invention looks. They protect the aesthetics and appearance of nonfunction items. Design patents cannot be used to protect how an invention works. This is so because the patent office issues utility patents to protect how an invention works and the functional aspects of an invention.

Design patents are almost always cheaper to obtain and less complicated to obtain than utility patents. This is so because design patents usually claim one design, whereas, utility patents often make numerous claims.

How Long Does it Take the Patent Office to Grant Design Patents?

According to data from the USPTO, it currently takes the patent office, 20.4 months to either grant or deny a design patent application. That said, design patents have a very high approval rating. Most design patents are issued without the applicant even receiving an office action. That said, if you do receive an office action, don't panic as office actions are often overcome by making amendments and/or changes to the design patent application.

How Long Do Design Patents Last?

How long a design patent lasts depends on when an applicant applied for his design patent. Patents originating from design patent applications filed on or after May 13, 2015, have a patent term of 15 years, while patents originating from design patent applications filed before May 13, 2015, have a patent term of 14 years.

For example, if you applied for a patent on May 1, 2015, and the patent office grants the patent on May 1, 2016, the patent will last for 14 years, expiring on May 1, 2030. On the other hand, if you applied for a patent on May 15, 2015, and the patent office grants the design patent on May 1, 2016, the patent will last for 15 years, expiring on May 15, 2031.

How Can You Tell If a Design Patent Has Expired?

You can tell if a design patent has expired by calculated the design patent term. To do this, look at when the design patent application was filed. If the application was filed on or after May 13, 2015, add 15 years to the date the design patent was granted and you should have the patent term or patent expiration date. If the design patent application was filed before May 13, 2015, add 14 years to the design patent grant or issue date and you will have the patent term or patent expiration date.

What Does the Expiration of the Patent Term Mean?

The expiration of the patent term simply means that the life of the patent has expired. The patent term refers to the 14 or 15-year lifespan of a design patent. So, when you hear someone saying that a design patent has a 15-year patent term, just know that they are referring to the 15-year life of a patent. That said, if you hear someone saying the design patent term has expired, this just means that the design patent has been granted for more than 14 or 15 years and has expired.

Why Do Design Patents Expire?

Patents expire to allow others to use the design and improve upon it. Without having an expiration date for patents, people would not be able to use great designs. The design patent term gives inventors just enough time to be able to profit from their design without having competitors using and selling the same design.

Patent law believes that 15 years is enough time for an inventor to profit from his design, after that, the design becomes part of the public domain, allowing anyone to use the once patented design. That said, don't use someone else's design just because the patent term expired because the design may still be protected under copyright law.

Can Design Patents Expire Due to Nonpayment of Maintenance Fees?

Fortunately, in the U.S, inventors are not required to pay maintenance fees to keep design patents from expiring. U.S Patent law only requires the payment of maintenance fees for utility patents. Once a patent office grants a design patent, the patent remains in effect until the patent term expires, maintenance fees are not required to keep design patents granted.

Does a Design Patent Expire?

As you're probably aware by now, a design patent does expire after 15 years from the date the patent office grants it. However, you should be aware that a design patent applied for before May 13, 2015, has a 14-year patent term. The patent term is different for design patents applied for after May 13, 2015, which have a patent term of 15 years. We also covered things such as the importance of design patents, as well as the fact that design patents cannot be renewed once the patent term ends or the patent expires. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


What does a design patent protect?

What Does a Design Patent Protect?

The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) issues design patents to inventors of new designs. Design patents allow inventors to stop others from using, making, and selling the design for a limited period of time. For design patents, this limited period of time lasts for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent.

What Does a Design Patent Protect?

According to the USPTO, a design patent protects the aesthetics or appearance of an object. Unlike utility patents that protect how an invention works, design patents protect how an item looks. Inventors often seek design patents to stop others from copying their designs and passing them off as their own.

So, what's the difference between design patents and utility patents? Design patents protect how an item looks and the aesthetics of a nonfunction item. Utility patents, on the other hand, protect the functional aspects of an invention and how the invention works.

The patent office does not all inventors to protect the functional aspects of an invention using a design patent. Design patents can only be used to protect the ornamental appearance of objects that are nonfunctional.

It's important to note that design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants the design patents. This is different from the 20-year patent term for utility patents.

Design patents have gained value in recent times, but utility patents are still superior because they're much broader than design patents. While a party may be able to design around your design patent, it's much harder for them to design around a utility patent because utility patents protect how an invention works.

That said, obtaining both a utility patent and a design patent on an invention is permitted by the USPTO. Having multiple layers of intellectual property (IP) protection makes your invention or product or more valuable. So, if your invention is eligible for both a utility patent a design patent, ask your attorney about obtaining both forms of protection.

What Does a Design Patent Do?

A design patent allows an inventor to stop others from using, making, selling, offering to sell, and importing the patented design to the United States for 15 years. The 15-year design patent term starts when the patent office grants a design patent application.

For example, if you have a design patent over the appearance of a purse, you will be able to stop others from making and selling a purse with the same design. This allows the patent holder to stop others from copying and profiting from their design for 15 years. At the end of the 15-year patent term, the patented design becomes part of the public domain, which basically means that anyone can copy and use the design without having to obtain the consent of the patent holder.

How Long Does a Design Patent Last?

As previously mentioned, a design patent lasts for 15 years from the date the patent office grants an inventor's design patent application. An applicant for a design patent will not be able to stop others from making, using, and selling the patented design until the patent office grants his application.

Before the patent office grants an applicant's application, there is no patent to enforce. So, if you're applying for a design patent, you should be aware that your rights under patent law don't kick in until the patent office grants your patent application.

What Qualifies For a Design Patent?

For a design to qualify for a design patent, it must be purely aesthetic, meaning that it is not functional, it has to be for decorative purposes only. Also, the design must be new and unique, something different than anything that's been published or previously patented. The last requirement is that the design must be attached to an object. If an inventor of a design can satisfy these requirements, he may be able to obtain a design patent over his design.

Cost of Obtaining a Design Patent

The cost of obtaining a patent is probably one of the biggest investment decisions that an inventor has to make. Patenting a design is not cheap in the United States, often costing inventors anywhere between $1,900 to $5,100.

The majority of the cost associated with patenting a design comes from paying an attorney to prepare and file a design patent application. Some applicants choose to prepare and file their design patent applications on their own, however, the patent office discourages inventors from preparing their own patent application because the requirements are strict and making even minor mistakes can get your patent application rejected, costing you more time and money down the road to remedy the problem.

Here is the breakdown of the costs of obtaining a design patent:

  • USPTO Filing Fees: $50 to $200
  • USPTO Search Fees: $40 to $160
  • USPTO Examination Fees: $150 to $600
  • Maintenance Fees: Not Applicable to Design Patents
  • Attorneys Fees: $1,500 to $3,500

Obtaining Both a Design Patent and a Utility

Some inventions can be protected by both a design patent and a utility patent. For example, if you have an invention that performs some function, you can file a utility patent to protect that functional aspect of it. If the same invention has a new and unique design, you can apply for a design patent to protect the appearance of the invention. To obtain both forms of protection, you have to file two separate patent applications: a utility patent application and a design patent application.

Having both forms of IP protection makes it more valuable because the utility patent will protect how the invention works from being copied and the design patent protects how the invention looks. So, you're protecting both parts of your invention from being copied, making your invention more valuable to you as an inventor and to the party you may be selling or licensing your patent to.

Many inventors choose to apply for utility patents in addition to design patents because design patents only protect how an invention looks, some copycats copy the function of a product and make changes to the appearance to make it seem different. There is where applying for a utility patent comes in. Even if a copycat changes the appearance of a product, if the product functions the same, utility patents allow inventors to stop them from making and selling the infringing product even if it looks different. So, there are some advantages to applying for both types of patents.

Enforcing a Design Patent

If you've finally patented your design, don't rest just yet because it up to the patent holder to stop infringers from copying his invention. The patent office only grants a design patent, it does not enforce them. So, if someone copies the design that you just spent so much money patenting, it's your job to go out, look for products that infringe upon your patent, and ask them to stop from copying your design.

If the party infringing upon your design does not seize copying it or selling it, you have the option of bringing a lawsuit against them in federal court for patent infringement. If your lawsuit is successful, you may obtain a court order asking the infringing party to cease its infringing activities.

What Do Design Patents Protect?

By now, you should be aware that design patents protect how an invention or product looks. Design patents do not protect how an invention works or the functional aspects of an invention.

An inventor who has an invention may be able to file both a utility patent and a design patent. The utility patent would protect the functional aspects of the invention and the design patent will protect the appearance of the invention.

Design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants an applicant design patent application. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what a design patent protects. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


can you get a design and utility patent?

Can You Get a Design and Utility Patent?

You've got an invention and you want to patent it, so you're wondering what type of protection you need. We are here to help explain what types of patents the USPTO offers and which ones are right for your invention. The patent office offers both utility patents and design patents.

Utility patents protect how an invention, machines, or process works while design patents protect new and unique designs, as well as the aesthetics of an invention. So, can you get both a design and utility patent on your invention? We will answer this question below.

Can You Get a Design and Utility Patent?

Yes, some inventors can get both a design and utility patent on their invention, however, the invention must qualify for both a design and utility patent. So, what makes an invention qualify for both a utility and design patent? If you have an invention that has a functional element, as well as a unique design, you may just be able to protect it with both forms of intellectual property (IP) protection.

For example, if you have developed a new type of foldable smartphone, you may be able to protect the functional aspects of the phone by applying for a utility patent and if it has a unique look, you can apply for a design patent.

Utility patents and design patents can be filed for the same product, however, design patents will only protect the aesthetics of your invention or product and not the functional elements. Utility patents are appropriate to protect the functional aspects of your invention.

Please note that if you want the protection of both a utility patent and a design patent, an applicant will have to apply for both forms of protection separately by filing a utility patent application and a design patent application. Having both types of IP protection makes an invention more valuable because it's more strongly protected from being copied.

A utility patent will allow the patent holder to stop others from using, making, and selling an invention with similar function and a design patent will allow the applicant to stop others from making, using, and selling an invention with a similar design, aesthetic, or look. This allows the applicant to reduce his competition in the market by restricting others from making and selling his patented invention.

Obtaining a design patent for your invention is usually much less expensive and easier than obtaining a utility patent, making applying for a design patent a good idea if your invention has a unique aesthetic. Overlapping protection is always favored over single patent protection.

Scope of Protection

We all know that having a patent over an invention is almost always better than not having one. As previously mentioned, design patents only protect the appearance of a product and not the functional aspects of an invention. So, while a design patent protects the inventor from parties producing a knockoff that looks exactly the same, it does not protect the inventor from parties producing a similarly functioning product that looks different.

The beauty of utility patents is that they prevent others from making products that function the same way so that even if the product looks different, the patent holder will still be able to take action against the infringing party if they produce a product that merely works the same way.

That said, if you've patented your product, you can't just sit on the sidelines and expect the patent office to protect your invention from being copied. It's the inventor's job to look for parties that are infringing upon their patent and bring lawsuits against them.

If an inventor finds a party infringing upon his patent, he can sue them in federal court for patent infringement. If the inventor is successful in his lawsuit, he will be able to obtain a court order, ordering the infringer to stop copying or selling the patented invention.

Utility Patent Benefits Summary

  • Protect how an invention works
  • Protect how an invention functions
  • Ability to stop others from making an invention that works the same as the inventor's invention
  • Allow the inventor to exclusively profit from making and selling his invention
  • Stop others from copying the functional aspect of an inventor's invention

Design Patent Benefits Summary

  • Protect how an invention looks
  • Protect the unique design of an invention
  • Ability to stop others from copying an inventor's unique design
  • Ability to profit from the unique appearance of an invention for a limited period of time

That said, an inventor will not be able to stop others from making an invention with a similar function or look until the patent office grants an inventor's patent application. Without having an issued patent, an applicant cannot sue other parties for infringing upon his patent because he doesn't have one yet. However, obtaining a patent is still a smart decision because, in the long-term, an applicant will be able to stop others from making and using his patented invention.

Utility Patent Infringement vs Design Patent Infringement

If an inventor has a patent on his invention or product, he can sue any party that infringes upon his patent. If an inventor has a utility patent over an invention that has been copied, he can sue the party that copies his invention. To succeed in a lawsuit against the infringer, the patent holder will have to show that a party has made, sold, or offered for sale a product that infringes upon the patent claims of the patent holder's patent.

With a design patent, an inventor is able to sue a party that infringes upon his design by suing them for patent infringement. In a lawsuit for design patent infringement, a patent holder can show that infringement has occurred by placing his design next to the infringing design and showing the similarities between the patented design and the infringing design.

Obtaining a Utility Patent and a Design Patent

Obtaining a utility patent is a complex process that requires the help of an experienced patent attorney. While the patent office allows inventors to represent themselves in patenting their invention, they recommend that inventors hire an attorney to assist them with the preparation and prosecution of their patent application.

Design patents are easier and less expensive to obtain than utility patents, however, the patent office does have some stringent requirements on how to prepare a design patent application, so it's recommended that applicants seek the help of an attorney to prepare and file their patent application.

If you don't have the money to hire an attorney to obtain a patent, you can explore the option of hiring a patent agent to assist you with your patent application. Patent agents are qualified and licensed by the USPTO to assist inventors in patenting their inventions.

How Long Do Design Patents and Utility Patents Last?

If an applicant applies for both a utility patent and a design patent, he should be aware of the fact that the patent term of each of these patents is different. Utility patents last for 20 years from the time an inventor files a nonprovisional patent application with the patent office and design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent application. So, just be aware that design patent protection may expire before the utility patent expires on your invention.

Attorney

We are offering general legal information and our interpretation of the law, so if you have any questions about your specific situation, please contact a patent attorney and discuss your invention with them. Attorneys are experienced and will be able to offer the best advice for your specific situation.

Getting Both a Utility and Design Patent

By now, you should be aware that you can apply for both a utility patent and a design patent to protect the same invention. The utility patent will protect the functional aspects of your invention, i.e., how your invention works and how it's used and a design patent will protect the design or appearance of your invention, i.e., how your invention looks.

So, if you have an invention that qualifies for both types of patents, ask your attorney if you should apply for both forms of intellectual property protection. The more forms of protection you have on your invention, the more valuable it becomes. That said, if you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


can you patent an idea for a product?

Can You Patent an Idea For a Product?

The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) offers inventors of new machines, processes, designs, and compositions of matters a monopoly over their invention for a limited period of time. The length of the monopoly depends on the type of patent that the inventor applies for. For example, utility patents last for 20 years whereas design patents last for 15 years. So, can you patent an idea for a product? And what type of patent do you need? We will answer these questions below.

Can You Patent an Idea For a Product?

The short answer is: no, you cannot patent an idea for a product, you must have something that's more than just an idea. To patent your invention, you should, at a minimum, be able to explain how the invention works, as well as how the invention can be used. To get a design patent, an inventor must have a design that's applied to an object. We will go into more detail about what can be patented below.

Utility Patents

To get a utility patent on a product, an inventor must have something that's more than just an idea. An inventor does not necessarily have to have a working prototype, but the invent must be able to explain how to make the product, as well as explain how it works.

Utility patents are the most commonly applied for patent at the patent office, making up more than 90% of applied for patents. So, if you have a functional product, the best option is to apply for a utility patent to protect it from being copied by others.

A utility patent offers inventors a limited monopoly over their invention, allowing them to stop others from using, making, selling, and offering the patented product for a limited period of time. Utility patents offer 20 years of protection that starts from the day the applicant files his utility patent application at the patent office.

To obtain a utility patent, the inventor has to prove a few things. Among the things that an inventor has to show to obtain a utility is that the invention has a patentable subject matter, the invention is novel (new), the invention is nonobvious, and the invention is useful. If an applicant can show these four things, the applicant might be able to obtain a utility patent.

1) Patentable Subject Matter

To be able to patent your product, the product must have patentable subject matter. Said differently, the product you want to patent be something that the patent office offers a patent for. The patent office allows inventors to patent things such as machines, processes, compositions of matter, and products that perform some useful function. Here are some examples of things that can be patented:

  • Nail clippers
  • Tools
  • Computers
  • Cosmetics
  • Formulas
  • Instruments

That said, once an applicant shows that his invention falls within patentable subject matter, he must still satisfy the following three elements.

2) The Product You Want to Patent Must Be Novel

To patent an invention, the patent office requires the invention or product to be novel, that is, the patent office requires an invention to be 100% new, something that no one else has ever patented and has never been publicly disclosed. For an invention to be new, the inventor must have never sold the invention, offered it for sale, or publicly disclosed it.

If an inventor has publicly disclosed his invention, the patent office offers a 12 month grace period in which the inventor must file either a provisional or nonprovisional (regular) utility patent application. If more than 12 months have passed since the public disclosure of the invention, the patent office will not allow the inventor to patent his invention.

To determine whether an invention is new, applicants typically conduct a patent office database search to see if someone else has patented an invention that's similar to theirs. Conducting a simple google search, in addition to a patent database search, can be a good way to see if someone else has publicly disclosed the invention that an applicant wants to patent.

3) The Product You Want to Patent Must Be Nonobvious

After determining that an invention is new, an applicant has to show that his invention is nonobvious. Said differently, the applicant will have to show that an ordinary person familiar with the field of your product or invention will not consider your invention to be obvious at the time an inventor files his patent application.

The obviousness inquiry is a subjective one that the patent examiner performs. If the patent examiner concludes that your invention is obvious, he might reject your patent application, on the other hand, if he finds that your invention is not obvious, he will continue his examination of your patent application.

If your invention solves a problem that no one else has solved before, this will support a finding that your invention is not obvious because no one else has solved the problem. The more different your product is from anything that publicly exists, the more likely the patent examiner will consider your invention to be nonobvious.

4) The Product You Want to Patent is Useful

To patent a product, the patent office requires the product to be useful. Said differently, the product has to provide some identifiable benefit. Utility patent applications are rarely rejected on the grounds that they are not useful. However, is still important to remember to include a thorough and broad description of your invention.

For example, if you're patenting a new type of superior brake pads for cars, the useful purpose might, for example, be that they help cars stop faster in order to avoid accidents. This example will assist the patent examiner in making a positive determination that your invention or product is indeed useful and should, therefore, qualify for a patent.

5) Preparing and Filing Your Utility Patent Application

If you can satisfy the elements that we just listed, you can contact a patent attorney to prepare and file a utility patent application for your invention. Attorneys are best suited to advise you on whether to proceed with patenting your invention or product. Every case is fact-specific, so contacting an attorney is the best way to start the process of patenting your invention.

We understand that not everyone has the money to hire an attorney, but the good news is that you aren't required by the patent office to hire one to patent your invention. You have the option of hiring a patent agent, who are individuals licensed by the patent office to assist inventors in preparing and filing their patent application, as well as dealing with the patent office to get an invention patented.

Design Patents

In addition to obtaining a utility patent, your product may also qualify for a design patent. Design patents allow inventors to patent a product that has a new and unique appearance or aesthetic. Design patents allow inventors to stop others from using, making, and selling a product that has a similar design to the one that you've patented.

To get a design patent, an inventor of a design will have to show that his design is unique and no one else has ever patented the same design. Design patents are much easier to obtain than utility patent and they're also cheaper to obtain. That said, utility patents offer way more protection than design patents.

Like with utility patents, to patent a design, no one else must have patented the design that you invented. An applicant should perform a patent search to see if someone else has patented a design that the same as or similar to the one that they want to patent. If no else has patented the design, the applicant can proceed to prepare and file their design patent application.

As part of a design patent application, an inventor will have to include drawings of the design, the drawings must follow the rules that the patent office has set forth for patent drawings. These rules include creating drawings using black ink on white paper. An applicant should include multiple drawings of the entire design from different angles and sides.

Also, it's important to note that you can only patent one design per design patent application. If you submit multiple designs in the same application, the patent office will force you to choose one of the designs to proceed with. So, if you want to patent your design, your best option is to contact an attorney and ask them to assist you with the application.

The patent office has a lot of rules regarding how the application should be prepared, as well as standards for the drawings that must be followed. Making even seemingly minor mistakes can get your application rejected, costing you more money down the road to amend the application.

Patenting an Idea for a Product

By now, you should be aware that the patent office does not allow inventors to patent a mere idea. To get a patent, you must be able to explain to the patent office how to make the invention, as well as how the invention can be used. Inventors can obtain a utility patent for their invention, as well as a design patent if their invention has a new and unique design.

Having both types of intellectual property protection on your invention makes your invention or product more valuable. So, if you have an invention that has the potential for success, ask your attorney if you should apply for both a utility patent, as well as a design patent. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


can cosmetics be patented?

Can Cosmetics Be Patented?

Whether you have invented your own cosmetic or you've been to Sephora, you may be wondering whether cosmetics can be patented? Patents are a form of intellectual property (IP) protection that allows inventors to monopolize their invention for a limited period of time, usually for 20 years from the time an inventor files his utility patent application with the patent office. So, can cosmetics be patented? We will answer this below.

Can Cosmetics Be Patented?

Yes, cosmetics can be patented but they have to meet the requirements set forth by the patent office to be eligible for a patent. The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) has dedicated an entire class to Cosmetics.

Cosmetics are usually made by combining several different, known ingredients to make a new compound. So, to get a patent on your cosmetic, you will have to show that your combination of ingredients qualifies as patentable subject matter, your formula is new and unique, useful, and nonobvious.

For a company or person to patent a cosmetic, they must disclose everything that is involved in making the cosmetic to obtain the best patent protection possible. That means disclosing the specific ingredients and compounds that go into making a cosmetic.

Some companies are reluctant to disclose the secret sauce that goes into their cosmetics. So, if you're someone who has a cosmetic on their hands, just know that you'll have to disclose everything in your patent application, which will be made public if the patent office grants your patent.

So, why do people choose to go through the hassle of patenting their cosmetic? They choose to do so because if they're successful in patenting their cosmetics, they will be granted a monopoly over the cosmetic.

Said differently, they will be able to stop everyone else from using, making, selling, or offering to sell the patented cosmetic for a limited period of time. For utility patents, this period of time is 20 years from the date an inventor files a utility patent application for the cosmetic.

That said, while patents grant you the right to exclude others from making and selling your patented cosmetic formulation, it's up to you to enforce your rights because the patent office is going to go out and stop others from making a product that's the same as yours, you have to find copycats and bring lawsuits against them.

Requirements to Patent Cosmetics

Here are some of the requirements that must be satisfied for the patent office to grant a patent for a cosmetic.

1) The Cosmetic Must Contain Patentable Subject Matter

To patent a cosmetic, the patent office requires it to contain patentable subject matter. Said differently, the cosmetic must be something that the patent office would grant a patent for. Cosmetics would fall under this category because they involve a formula or mixture of ingredients. The end product is a cosmetic, which qualifies as a composition of matter. For the patent office to grant a patent, there are still three other requirements that an inventor will have to satisfy to obtain a patent.

2) The Cosmetic Must Be Novel

For the patent office to grant a patent on any invention, the inventor has to show that his invention is novel. Said differently, the inventor has to show that his invention is new, something that no else has ever publicly disclosed and patented before.

For example, if someone takes a formula for a cosmetic from something that was published online, that cosmetic will not qualify for a patent because it has been publicly disclosed. Basically, the cosmetic has to be new to qualify for patent protection.

Now when we say that a cosmetic has to be new, we don't necessarily mean that every ingredient has to be new, but that the mixture or combination of ingredients must make something that is totally new. Don't get me wrong, if someone has discovered new ingredients and proceeded to add it to their formula, this definitely supports a finding that a cosmetic is new because no one else has ever used it or patented it.

3) The Cosmetic Must Be Nonobvious

Now that someone has established that a cosmetic is new, they have to show that the cosmetic is nonobvious. What does this mean? This means that the cosmetic has to be something that a person familiar within the field of cosmetic would not find your combination of ingredients to be obvious. To patent a cosmetic, the combination of ingredients or chemicals has to be something that no one had thought of at the time of filing either a provisional or (regular) nonprovisional patent application.

When the patent office judges the nonobviousness of the cosmetic, the patent examiner does so from the point of view of an ordinary person. The examiner will ask whether an ordinary person familiar with cosmetics will find the cosmetic formula to be obvious. This is a subjective inquiry. If the patent examiner concludes that it was obvious, the patent will not be granted. If the patent examiner finds that it was not obvious, the patent will proceed.

What makes something more or less obvious? If you're simply adding more propylene glycol to a cosmetic, it's unlikely that the patent examiner will find an invention (cosmetic) nonobvious, because adding this ingredient is something that an ordinary person would find to be obvious. To succeed on the element of nonobviousness, the combination of ingredients has to be one that no one else has thought of combining.

4) The Cosmetic Must Be Useful

To patent an invention, an applicant must show that his invention is useful. Patent applications are rarely rejected on the ground that they are not useful, but it's still important to note that an invention has to be useful to be patented.

To show usefulness, an applicant has to show that the cosmetic he wants to patent has some identifiable benefit to the end-user. For example, if an inventor has come up with a new facial cream, he can show usefulness by stating that the cream reduces wrinkles or offers sun protection. Either of these benefits will be able to show that your invention is indeed useful and has a useful purpose.

Design Patent on the Packaging of a Cosmetic

In addition to a utility patent protecting the formulation of a cosmetic, inventors can also obtain a design patent to protect the appearance of the packaging for their cosmetics. An applicant can get a design patent on the packaging only if the appearance and design of the packaging are new and unique. So, when you're consulting with an attorney to patent your cosmetics, ask them about a design patent for the product packaging.

Marketing A Patented Cosmetic

Patenting a cosmetic often makes it easier to sell a product because of the fact that a cosmetic maker will be able to label their cosmetic as "patent pending" while the patent examiner prosecutes their application and they're able to label it as having a "patented formula" once the patent office approves or grants their patent application.

People view patented products as products that are innovative because, hey! if someone went through the trouble of patenting a cosmetic, it has to be good and do something that other non-patented cosmetics don't do. So having a patented cosmetic definitely helps with marketing it.

Attorney

If you have a cosmetic or product that you want to patent, you should contact an experienced patent attorney. Patent attorneys have experience in what it takes to get an invention patented. So, find a decent attorney, preferably an attorney who specializes in the type of product that you want to patent and set up a consultation with them. Tell them about your specific case and listen to what they have to recommend. Many patent attorneys offer free consultations, so consult with one and see what they have to say about your specific situation.

If hiring an attorney is too expensive for you, you may be able to patent your invention with the help of a patent agent. Patent agents are licensed by the patent office and qualified to handle matters, such as assisting inventor in preparing and filing their patent application, as well as communicating with the patent office on behalf of their client. Patent agents can be a great resource, especially if you don't have the budget to hire an attorney.

That said, although the patent office allows inventors to prepare and filing their own patent application, the patent office recommends that inventors consult with and hire an attorney to patent their invention. This is so because patent law is complex and there are a lot of small requirements that must be followed for an inventor to patent his invention.

Cost

The cost to patent an invention varies greatly, but here are some helpful figures. Patent attorneys often charge anywhere between $8,000 and $15,000+ to prepare and file a patent application. The amount an attorney will charge you depends on how complex your invention is, as well as where your attorney is located. Attorneys in different parts of the US charge different amounts, so keep this in mind.

Also, the figures we quoted are just for an attorney to prepare and file your application, if an attorney has to do additional work, such as communicating with the patent office or amending your patent application, the attorney may charge you additional fees to do so.

Patenting a Cosmetic

By now, you should know that cosmetics can be patented, so long as an applicant satisfies the requirements set forth by the USPTO. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


Can you patent a color?

Can you Patent a Color?

If you found the perfect color for your product or service, you might be wondering whether you can patent that color. The USPTO (The United States Patent and Trademark Office) grants design patents to inventors that protect the aesthetic or ornamental appearance of an object for a limited period of time. In the case of design patents, this protection applies for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent application.

So, why do people get design patents? Inventors of design obtain design patents because they allow them to restrict others from using, making, selling, or offering to sell the item bearing the inventor's design. This reduces the chances of another party copying and passing of the design as its own. So, can a color be patented? Read below to find the answer.

Can You Patent a Color?

Whether you can patent a color depends on whether you're patenting a single color or a color as part of an entire design. A single color cannot be patented, but color as part of a complete design can be patented. For example, if you want to patent the color blue, you won't be able to patent it. However, if you have a design that includes the color blue, you can obtain a patent protecting the entire design.

If you want to patent color as part of your design patent, you will have to submit color drawings or color photographs as part of your design patent application. However, since the patent office prefers black and white drawings, you will have to file a petition with the patent office, explaining why your inclusion of color drawings is necessary for your design.

Once your petition is approved, you can send in color drawings or photographs that show the color you're claiming as part of your design. Once you submit color photographs, the patent office will consider the color a necessary part of your design.

Just remember that the patent office will not allow you to patent a color if it's functional. To patent a color as part of a design, it has to be ornamental, something that only improves the appearance of an object and not its function.

For example, if Ferrari used the color red on its breaks to reduce the amount of heat that's trapped within its braking system, that would be considered a functional use of the color red and would not be eligible for a design patent. Whereas, if it's using the color red to make the breaks look prettier, they may be able to obtain a design patent that includes the color red.

That said, if you want to patent a single color, you might still be able to do so by trademarking that color. So, how do you do this? We will discuss this below.

Trademarking a Color Instead of Patenting It

Now that you know you can't patent a single color, your color may qualify for protection under trademark law. If you have a certain color that your customers associate with your product or service, you can trademark that color by registering the color with the USPTO.

For example, Tiffany & Co. has registered its trademark for the color turquoise blue as it relates to jewelry. By registering this color, Tiffany & Co. is able to prevent others in the jewelry industry from using their color as it relates to Jewelry. For example, a jeweler in any part of the United States is prohibited from selling and advertising his jewelry by using a turquoise blue box. This is so because customers looking to purchase jewelry have come to associate the turquoise blue color with the Tiffany Brand.

But remember, even if you're able to trademark a color, you will be limited in using the trademarked color to a class of products. For example, Tiffany only has rights when it comes to turquoise blue when customers can confuse the products of another party with products from Tiffany.

For example, although Tiffany can prohibit a jeweler from selling a necklace that's boxed in a turquoise blue box, it probably would not be able to prohibit a party selling car shocks from using this color on their product packaging.

So, if you have a color that indicates you or your business as a source of the good or service, you can go ahead and seek to protect it by registering it with the trademark office.

Note: Getting a color trademarked is pretty difficult and can only be done in situations where customers strongly associate a color with a particular brand. The trademark is often hesitant to offer trademark colors because colors are finite. Imagine if every color under the sun is trademarked, there wouldn't be any colors left for others to use. So, your best bet is to contact an attorney, explain your situation, and see if he recommends proceeding with registering your color as a trademark.

How Do You Trademark a Color?

Before trademarking a color, you should conduct a trademark search to determine whether someone else has already registered the color that you want to register for your goods or services. If the trademark search returns no results, you're ready to prepare and file your trademark registration form.

You can do this by heading over to the USPTO website and filling out the required information. You will have to provide information such as your name, address, and the class of goods or services that you want to register the color for. Once you've prepared the application, you will need to file it and pay the associated filing fees.

After filing your application the trademark office will assign your trademark a serial number that you can and should use to periodically check the status of your application. The trademark office may recommend amendments or changes to your application, so if you receive a letter make sure you reply to it with the required information.

Should You Trademark It?

If you have a color that customers strongly associate with your product or service, it might be worthwhile to register it with the trademark office, so that you're protected nationwide and can bring a lawsuit against any party that uses the color in connection with goods or services that are similar to yours. We do recommend that you seek the help of a trademark attorney who can better explain to you what suits your specific needs.

What Protection Do You Get by Trademarking a Color?

If you successfully register a color as a trademark for your goods or services, you will be able to restrict others from using the color to sell similar goods or services. Remember, that you won't be able to stop everyone from using the color, you will only be able to stop others from using when customers may confuse their use of it on their products or service with your use of it.

Said differently, if you have registered the color blue as a trademark for your nail clippers and someone else is using the color blue on pedicure set, you will be able to bring a lawsuit against for infringing upon your trademark. However, the case would be different if they're using the color blue on a set of car floormats because they have are not related to the product you're offering and it's unlikely that customers will confuse the source of goods or services.

How Much Does Trademarking a Color Cost?

When trademarking a color, you have two sets of fees that you are responsible for. Registration fees and attorney fees. You should expect to pay the trademark office $275 for each class of goods that you want the color trademark to apply to. In addition to registration fees, if you want an attorney to assist you in preparing and filing your trademark application, you will need to budget an additional $1,500 to $2000 for their assistance.

In total, you're looking at between $1,775 to $2,275. That said, the amount an attorney will charge you may change depending on the complexity of your trademark application and your geographical location. This is because attorneys in different locations charge different fees for their services.

Note: If you want to protect your trademark for several different products and services, the cost to trademark them will be more. This is so because the trademark charges $275 for each class of goods. For example, if you want to protect the color trademark to sell sunglasses and car products, you may need to pay $275 for the class of sunglasses and an additional $275 for the class of car accessories. So, just keep this in mind as you're calculating the amount you need to pay to register your trademark.

Patenting a Color

By now, you should probably know that you cannot patent a single, but you can paten the color if it's part of a design. That said, if you want to protect color, you might be able to do so by registering it with the trademark office if you're using to identify you or your business as the source of goods or services. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


can you extend a patent?

Can You Extend a Patent?

The USPTO offers three different types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. If you've successfully patent your invention or design, you might be wondering how to extend the term of your patent? We will answer this below.

Utility patents and plant patents granted by the patent office in the United States last for 20 years from the filing date of your patent application. Design patents, on the other hand, last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants the patent.

Once the patent term expires, the inventor loses the right to restrict others from using, making, and selling the patented invention and the invention falls into the public domain, meaning that anyone can use or sell the invention without the express permission of the patent holder. So, can any of these patents be extended beyond their expiration date?

Can You Extend a Patent?

Generally, patents cannot be extended beyond the statutory patent term. However, the government does make some rare exceptions, such as those made for pharmaceuticals because of the large amount of time it takes the government to test drugs before granting the inventor a patent. So, unless you're attempting to extend the life a pharmaceutical drug, you're unlikely going to succeed in extending the term of your patent.

Like we previously mentioned, utility patents last for 20 years from the moment an applicant files his utility patent application. So, logically, applicants want the patent office to approve their patent application as quickly as possible. But, the patent office has more than 500,000 pending patent applications and so the process takes time.

On average, it takes the patent office 24 months to approve a patent application. Consequently, applicants often believe that the patent office should compensate them for the 24 months that it took the office to approve their patent. However, this is not how the patent office works.

So long as a substantial and undue delay has not been caused, the patent office will not extend the term of a patent, especially if it took the patent office less than three years to approve the patent application.

In some rare circumstances, the patent office extends the patent term fir applications that were pending for more than three years. The extensions are often issued in circumstances where the delay is caused by more than one inventor seeking to obtain a patent on the same invention.

That said, the patent office does not offer these extensions freely. If you want the patent term extended, you'll need to apply for a patent term adjustment (PTA) and you should keep in mind that the patent office rarely grants them.

Here are some circumstances where the patent office may grant you a patent term adjustment (PTA):

  • The patent office may issue a PTA if the patent office does not send out its first office action with 14 months of an applicant filing his patent application with the patent office
  • The patent office may grant a PTA if the time it takes the patent office to prosecute and grant a patent application exceeds 3 years. The 3 year period is calculated from the date an applicant files his patent application with the patent office and the date on which the patent office grants the patent application. If this period exceeds 3 years, the patent office will make a patent term adjustment.

Patent Term

In the United States and elsewhere, an inventor who patents his invention is given a monopoly over his invention for a limited period of time (20 years for utility patents and 15 years for design patents). This monopoly allows inventors to recoup the costs associated with creating their invention, as well as an opportunity to profit from their hard work. Naturally, inventors try to extend the period of time to profit from their invention.

While generally speaking, inventors are not permitted to extend the term of their patent unless the delay in obtaining a patent is significant and was caused by the patent office. Patent applicants are most successful in extending the patent term in the pharmaceutical industry where a patent for pharmaceuticals could remain pending for more than 7 years.

Because of the significant delays in patenting pharmaceuticals, courts are more lenient and allow patent term extensions to allow drug manufacturers to recoup the costs associated with researching and developing life-saving drugs.

So, should the government extend the patent term to award inventors? Some argue that the patent term should be extended to reward inventors who often disclose inventions that are beneficial to society.

This notion is based on the fact that inventors will disclose their inventions, such as new medications, earlier if they know that the government will reward them with the ability to exploit and profit from their invention for a longer period of time.

Depending on how you ask, you will get a different answer to this question. Some will say that extending the patent term is bad because it allows inventors to charge high prices for the use of their invention. On the other hand, others argue that extending the patent term will add further encouragement for inventors to make new inventions, machines, drugs that will further improve the health and wellbeing of society.

Improvement Patent

Inventors can patent improvements that they make to existing inventions. This allows inventors to restrict others from using the improved version of the original patented invention. However, you should know that sometimes the inventor or applicant for the improved invention will need a license from the original inventor to use the improved invention. This is so because improvement patents build upon and improve an already existing, patented invention.

That said, inventors often make improvements that were not obvious can be used to extend the life of a patent that's about to expire. Because the invention as improved will be granted a new patent term, allowing the inventor to restrict others from using, making, and selling the improved invention.

One way to continue profiting from your invention is to improve upon it. This is especially important if you already patented a commercially successful invention. Think about how you can improve it in a way that will make your customers want to buy the improved form of your invention as opposed to the older version.

If an inventor can figure this out, he will be able to continue to profit from his invention in its modified form. This will not only allow you to continue to profit but to stay ahead of your competition.

Patent Expiration

At the end of the patent term, patents expire and become part of the public domain. What does this mean for a patent holder? It means that he will no longer be able to restrict others from using, making, or selling the invention.

Others will be able to freely copy and sell the once patented invention without having to obtain the consent of the patent holder. In the pharmaceutical industry, this means that other companies will be able to produce generic brands of the drug and offer them to the public at a lower cost.

The inventor of a product will be able to continue to manufacture and sell the once patented product, but he should expect competition from others who may have made the same exact product. Basically, once a patent expires anyone can copy the invention and sell his own version even if it's an exact replica of the inventor's invention.

So, why does the law have an expiration date on patents? why not allow them to exist forever? The government has limited the amount of time that an inventor can benefit from his utility patent to 20 years because allowing them indefinitely would stifle competition.

Once patents expire, the technology that was once protected and available to a few people becomes widely adopted as prices typically drop and more people can manufacture the same invention and sell it to the public. Therefore, there is a good reason for granting temporary monopolies to inventors vs permanent ones.

Extending Your Patent

By now, you probably know that extending the term of your patent is a difficult task to do, especially if the delay was not caused by the patent office. Inventors have a few options to continue to benefit and profit from their invention, such as patenting improvement to their inventions. We also touched on the benefits and drawbacks of extending the patent term. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.