Attorney at Law Magazine – Twin Cities Edition
Author: Courtland Merrill (co-authored with Michael B. Lasky)
Patents have two flavors: utility (how things work) and design (how things look). If you are overlooking design patents, you are missing one of the most cost effective patent tools.
And if you don’t think your business qualifies for a design patent because you don’t do technology, maybe you should rethink it. In Apple v. Samsung, Apple successfully showed that Samsung copied the clean shape and sleek look of Apple’s smartphone. Samsung argued that something as simple as the shape of the iPhone cannot be protected by a design patent. Samsung was wrong. Design patents protect the ornamental appearance of an article of manufacturer, in short, the way a product looks, not how it functions. Like a utility patent, patentable designs must be new and non-obvious. Design patents also cannot cover purely functional features. Design patents are easy and cheap to get and are granted relatively quickly by the patent office.