Design patents (or industrial designs in Canada) are a complementary form of intellectual property to patents. Design Registrations protect visual features like shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation, or any combination of these, applied to an original finished article made by hand, tool or machine. The process of applying for a design registration is similar but usually simpler and less expensive than that of applying for a patent. The application essentially consists of a set of drawings, without written description or claims. Examination takes place, but by far the majority of defects are of the formal rather than the substantive variety.
The scope of protection for Design Registration, which is directed to the similarity of appearance, rather than an inventive concept, is markedly less and the term of protection is shorter: 5 years renewable once upon payment of a renewal fee in Canada, and 14 years non-renewable in the US.
However, sometimes the protection of such visual features is exactly what is needed. In the Apple v. Samsung litigation, the multi-million dollar award given to Apple was on the basis of a registered design patent for the overall layout and structure of the iPad tablet device, which the jury found was infringed by Samsung’s device.
In some cases, where a search uncovers that it is unlikely that a patent of any significant scope would be available to the inventor, there may still be room and reason to file for a design registration to get a modicum of intellectual property protection for the invented product.
DSL Patents has experience in and files for industrial design protection in Canada, and maintains an extensive network of experienced foreign associates to advise on and to procure similar protection in other jurisdictions. Please contact us for more information.