Conducting a design patent search entails sifting through existing patents to ensure that your design has not already been patented. Design patents are available for designs that are original, ornamental, and new. These patents last for 15 years from the date that they are filed if the original filing date was on or after May 13, 2015. Design patents issued before this date last for 14 years. Bear in mind that a design patent protects the unique design of a product, but does not protect its functionality or utility. 

Design Patent or Utility Patent? 

Knowing whether to file for a design or utility patent can be confusing. The primary difference between design patents and utility patents is that a utility patent protects use of a product and how it works, whereas a design patent only covers the product’s design. 

Why is a Design Patent Search Necessary?

Performing a design patent search helps verify that your product and/or the patent you are aiming to file will not be too similar to a patent that already exists. There are multiple websites where you can look through existing design patents, but be cautious when performing your searches, as some of these websites are restricted and you won’t be able to see all existing design patterns. Remember, a USPTO patent examiner compares your design against all “prior art” from around the world to determine if your design is original, ornamental, and new. Therefore, most DIY searching is a good place to start, but is seldom sufficient. 

How to Perform a Design Patent Search?

A design patent search can be performed at your nearest United States Patent and Trademark Office library. Alternatively, you may use the library website or do a Google Patent Search on your own. There are also services that will perform design patent searches for you for a fee. Depending on how complex the search is, the cost of these search tools can range from $300 to $800. 

It is imperative to be meticulous and thorough while conducting your design patent search, especially when searching according to a specific keyword. Take note that some of the most descriptive elements of design patents tend to be in the drawings and/or renderings, which can make it difficult to search by keyword. In these cases, it may be useful to work with a patent attorney for your design patent search. A patent lawyer with experience conducting design patent searches will know exactly what to look for, which could save you precious time and resources.

Deadlines for Design Patents

Once your design is solid to the public, or the existence of that sale becomes public, you have 12 months to apply for a patent. Public display of your design could come in the form of unveiling your product at a tradeshow or portraying it in any sort of print or digital publication. To be clear, there are several ways a disclosure can be “public,” so please talk with a patent attorney ASAP if you think you may have publicly disclosed your invention. If your design has not been shown publicly, you will not be held to a deadline for your application, but you do run the risk of your design idea being stolen as it is not protected. As such, it is ideal to have an application on file before any arguably public disclosure – just to be safe. 

If this is your first time applying for a design patent, the process can be confusing. TBillick Law PLLC offers a range of services including utility and design patent protection. If you’re looking for advice, you’ve come to the right place. Feel free to get in touch with us today.