Whether you have a design that you want to patent or you’re just curious about knowing how long a design patent is good for, you’ve come to the right place. The patent office allows inventors of new designs to protect those designs by obtaining a limited-time monopoly over their designs. So, how long does a design patent last for? We will answer this question below.

How Long is a Design Patent Good For?

According to the USPTO, a design patent that is filed on or after May 13th, 2015 is good for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent application. A design patent that was filed before May 13th, 2015 lasts for 14 years from the date the patent office granted the design patent application.

A design patent allows design patent holders to stop others from using, making, selling, and importing a product or article that bears the patent holder’s patented design for a limited period of time (15 years) without the patent holder’s express permission.

While the patent holder has an active and valid patent, he may be able to sell his patented design without having to compete with others who will use his design because he can stop anyone else from copying and selling his design.

For someone who has a well-known design that attracts customers, having a design patent gives him the ability to control the market and be the only one who’s offering an article bearing the patented design, making design patents an important tool for exploiting one’s design for profit.

If anyone else uses the patent holder’s patented design, the patent holder can bring a lawsuit against them for design patent infringement. If successful, the patent holder will be able to obtain an injunction to stop his competitors from using design. Also, a patent holder may obtain monetary damages he sustained as a result of the unlawful use of his design.

Patent Rebel Hint: An inventor cannot stop others from using his design patent while his design patent application is pending at the patent office. An inventor can only enforce his rights under patent law after the patent office grants his patent application. Once the patent office grants a design patent application, then and only then can a design patent holder begin to restrict others from using, making, and selling his patented design.

Why is filing a design patent application as quickly as possible important?

Filing a design patent application with the USPTO as quickly as possible is very important in the United States because the U.S has a first to file rule that awards a design patent to the first inventor who files a design patent application with the patent office.

For example, if you invent a new design and someone else invents the same design a year later and files a design patent application with the patent office before you do, he will be granted a design patent and you will not be able to patent the design even though you invented it first.

As such, if you have a design that’s new and unique, you should file a patent application with the patent office as quickly as possible so that you will be able to obtain an early filing date for your design to prevent someone else from patenting it before you do.

How many designs can you patent?

You can patent an unlimited amount of designs, however, you can only patent one design per design patent application. For example, if you have more than one design that you want to patent, you will have to patent each design using a separate design patent application.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Design Patent?

According to the USPTO, it currently takes 20 months for an inventor to obtain a design patent. The 20 month period is measured from the moment an inventor files a design patent application and the date the patent office makes a decision on the application.

That said, waiting 20 months to patent a design often defeats the purpose of protecting a design since designs often go out of style very quickly. So, can you get a design patent quicker?

Yes, you can patent a design more quickly by using Rocket Docket. Rocket Docket is a service offered by the USPTO that allows inventors of new designs to expedite their design patent application by filing a request to expedite along with payment of a fee.

Rocket Docket promises to patent a design within less than 12 months, however, inventors have reported being able to patent their designs within less than 6 months and in some circumstances in just about 4 months. So, if you have a design that you want to patent, you should ask your attorney about the option to expedite your design patent application using Rocket Docket.

How Long is a Design Patent Valid For?

Design patents that result from design patent applications filed for on or after May 13th, 2015, are valid for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent application.

On the other hand, design patents resulting from design patent applications that were filed before May 13th, 2015, are valid for 14 years from the date the patent office granted a design patent application.

Unlike utility patents, design patents do not require the patent holder to make periodic maintenance fees to keep the patented as granted. Once the patent office grants a design patent application, a design patent lasts until it expires.

What Happens When a Design Patent Expires?

When a design patent expires, the design falls into the public domain, meaning that anyone can use the patented design without having to obtain the design patent’s holder’s express permission.

This is so because once a design patent expires, the patent holder no longer has rights under patent law to stop others from using, making, and selling the patented design, allowing the public to use the patented design without violating patent law.

Patent Rebel Note: When a patent on a design expires, even though you can use the patented design without violating patent law, you should make sure to check if a different form of IP protection protects the design before using it. If, for example, copyright protection exists on the design, you might violate it if you use the once patented design without obtaining the permission of the copyright holder.

Can a Design be Patented?

Yes, a design can be patented so long as the design is new, unique, and nonobvious. To patent a design the design must have never been patented for and the design must not have been publicly disclosed more than 12 months before an applicant files a design patent application.

To patent a design, an inventor must prepare a design patent application along with several drawings of the design (invention) to be patented. After preparing a design patent application, an inventor must file the design patent application with the USPTO and pay the patenting fees to the patent office.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) How Long is a Patent Valid For?

Design patents in the US last for 15 years from the date the patent office grants a design patent application. On the other hand, utility patents last for 20 years from the date an applicant files a nonprovisional patent application with the patent office.

2) How do you know when a design patent expires?

You can know when a design patent expires by looking at the date the patent office granted a design patent application. You can find the grant date on a design patent, it’s on the document itself and you can find a design patent by searching the USPTO patent database or using a patent search database such as Google Patents.

Once you find the grant date of a design patent application, you should do the following: (1) if the design patent was filed before May 13th, 2015, you should add 14 years to the grant date and this will give you the expiration date. If the design patent application was filed on or after May 13th, 2015, add 15 years to the grant date and this will give you the expiration date of a design patent.

3) What is the difference between a design and utility patent?

A design patent protects the appearance of an invention or article, whereas a utility patent protects how an invention works or how it’s used (i.e., the function of an invention). Utility patents and design patents are very different, so if you have an invention that you want to protect, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the differences between the two.

4) Can you get both a design and utility patent on an invention?

Yes, you can get both a design and utility patent on an invention but the invention must be both functional and have a unique design. The design patent would protect the appearance of the invention or how it looks and the utility patent would protect the function of an invention or how the invention looks. To get both a design and utility patent an inventor will have to file both a utility patent application and a design patent application because a single application is not available to get both a utility and design patent.

5) Can a design patent last forever?

A design patent does can never last forever because it is a limited monopoly that patent law specifies only lasts for 15 years, as such every design patent will expire and once a design patent expires, the same design can never be patented again. However, if you have a unique design and the design patent on it expired, you can make improvements to the design so that you make just enough changes so as to create a new design that can be patented again. This is one way you can sort of extend your rights over the design.