If you have a design that you want to protect with a patent, you’re probably wondering how long a design patent lasts? Design patents are a form of intellectual property protection granted by the USPTO to inventors to protect their new and unique designs. Patents allow inventors to prohibit others from using, making, selling, or otherwise profiting from their patented design for a limited period of time. So, how long does a design patent last? We will cover this in the paragraph below.
How Long Does a Design Patent Last?
According to the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), a design patent filed on or after May 13, 2015 lasts for 15 years from the date the design patent is granted. That said, design patents file before May 13, 2015 are good for 14 years from the date the design patent is granted. Knowing how long your design patent will last depends on when it was filed, so check your filing date and you’ll be able to calculate how long your design patent lasts.
The great thing about obtaining a design patent is that unlike utility patents, maintenance fees are not required to keep the patent from expiring at the patent office.
Also, the benefit of applying for a design patent is that the amount of time it takes to prosecute and get a design patent is not deducted from the amount of time a design patent is good for. This is so because the 15 years design patent term starts when the patent office grants the design patent and not when the design patent is filed.
Design patents remain secret while they are pending at the USPTO, they are only published once the patent office grants the design patent application.
What Does a Design Patent Protect?
Design patents protect the aesthetics and nonfunctional appearance of an invention. Said differently, an inventor can use a design patent to protect how his product looks. That said, an inventor cannot use a design patent to protect how his invention works.
While design patents are limited in what they protect, they are important to obtain in circumstances where the look of a product plays a major role in the purchasing decision of customers, i.e., customers purchase the product in part for its unique design. So, while design patents offer limited protection when compared to utility patents, it’s worth it to get a design patent if protecting the appearance of your product is important to you.
By obtaining a design patent on the appearance of your product, you will be able to prohibit others from making, using, and selling a product that has a similar design to your product for a limited period of time (usually 15 years for design patents).
Here are some examples of things that a design patent can protect:
- Beverage containers
- Computer icons
- Product packaging
What Does a Design Patent Not Protect?
Design patents do not protect the functional aspects of an invention. The line between what can and cannot be protected by a design patent is sometimes blurred when the appearance of an item is new and unique and offers utility at the same time. Under these circumstances, you should consider filing for both a utility patent and a design patent. Protecting your invention with both types of patents adds value to your intellectual property.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Design Patent?
According to the USPTO, as of July 2019, it takes 20.4 months for the patent office to either grant or deny a design patent application. So, if you’re applying for a design patent, expect the process to get a design patent to take 20 months. That said, the patent office also states that you should expect the first office action to be mailed out to you within 14.1 months of filing your design patent application.
How Much Does a Design Patent Cost?
Inventors often choose to obtain a design patent on their invention, in addition to a utility patent, because design patents are almost always less expensive to get than utility patents. The USPTO charges micro-entities a $50 filing fee, $100 filing fee for small entities and a $200 filing fee for large entities.
In addition, to filing fees, design patent applicants have to pay a design patent search fee of $40 for micro-entities, $80 for small entities, and $160 for large entities.
The last fee a design patent applicant has to pay is the design patent examination fee, which is $150 for micro entities, $300 for small entities, and $600 for large entities.
Many individual inventors will qualify as a micro entity, bring the total cost to file a design patent application to $240
If you want to have the drawings for your design patent application to be professional done, you should expect to pay $50 to $100 per drawing, so make room in your budget for $750 for drawings that illustrate your design.
If you choose to have an attorney prepare and file your design patent application, expect to pay them between $1,500 to $3,500, depending on the complexity of the design you’re seeking to patent.
In total, you should expect to pay the following to obtain a design patent:
- USPTO Fees: $240
- Drawings: $700
- Attorney Fees: $1,500
- Total: $2,440
Can a Design Patent be Renewed?
Unfortunately, design patents cannot be renewed once they expire. Design patents are good for 15 years from the date the patent office grants them. At the end of the 15 year patent term, the patent expires and becomes part of the public domain, meaning anyone can use the design without the express consent of the patent holder. No one can renew or extend the design patent term once a design patent expires.
How Long Does a Design Patent Last vs a Utility Patent
As mentioned previously design patent last for 15 years from the date the patent office approves a design patent application. Utility patents, on the other hand, last for 20 years from the date an applicant files his utility patent application. So, utility patent offer lengthier protection, but sometimes prosecuting a utility patent application takes a long term, typically reducing the patent term by 2 to 3 years.
Quick Summary of Design Patent Term
- Design Patents Filed Before May 13, 2015
They last for 14 years from the date the patent office grants the design patent.
- Design Patents Filed On or After May 13, 2015
They last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants the design patent application
The USPTO does not grant extensions for design patents
Should You Patent Your Design?
Whether you should patent your design depends on the importance of your design to your product. If the appearance of your product is what makes it sell, then you should go ahead and patent your design by filing a design patent application with the patent office. By obtaining a design patent over your design, you can prohibit copycats from copying your design and passing it off as their own.
How to Patent a Design?
To patent a design, you need to first prepare a design patent application, you need to pay the required patent office fees, and you need to file your design patent application with the USPTO. So, what does preparing your design patent application entail?
You must perform a design patent search to ensure that no one has already patented the design you’re seeking to protect. Once you’ve performed this search, you need to prepare and file a design patent application with the USPTO.
Once you’ve filed your design patent application with the USPTO, an examiner will examine your application to make sure that all of the required information is accurate and that your design does indeed qualify for design patent protection.
Once the patent examiner completes his examination, if he finds that your application has any deficiencies, he will ask you to correct them, once the deficiencies are corrected, the examiner will either grant or reject your design patent.
Design Patent Term
As mentioned previously, the patent term for design patents is 15 years from the date the USPTO grants an applicant’s design patent application. If you have any general questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.