Understanding Design Patent Types

A design is a formal specification or plan for the arrangement of any object or system in terms of its functional components or their functionality and/or the effect of such plan or specifications in the form of a physical specimen, prototype or implement, or the product or mechanism resulting from the plan or specifications. The word ‘design’ originally referred to the application of painting or sculpting, to make a technical or artistic structure more beautiful, and more practical to practical use. In engineering, however, design refers to a systematic process for designing a structure or product, with specific goals and constraints. The discipline of architecture, like other architectural sciences, incorporates both technical knowledge and aesthetic sense into the creation of building structures and spaces.


The term ‘design’ has various other usages in the fields of patentability and ornamental patenting. In the drafting of technical descriptions and USPTO specification for machine designs, ‘design’ is used as a generic term for describing the means by which the machine is designed and describes the specific arrangements and control measures necessary to enable the machine to carry out its intended function. This is also the case in the drafting of ornamental features of structural components, and their ornamentation to improve their aesthetic and functional properties. Similarly, the term ‘inspiration’ refers to the process by which a designer produces a new design that combines existing information with new information and innovation to produce an original product.

People often confuse ‘utility patent’ and design patents, which are used for different purposes. Utility patents grant protected rights to manufacture, sell, control, and protect the use to an extent over the objects designated in the patents. They are different from design patents, which are applied for a limited time period and only to ornamental features. Design patents, on the other hand, may apply throughout the life of the product but are less extensive than utility patents, and therefore do not provide as broad protection.