Vital Information: Utility Patents, Design Patent , Trademarks, Copyright Protection

Vital Information on Types of Patents

Types of Protection

Padlock icon symbolic of Utility Patents for product protection
  • Utility Patent – this protects the functionality of a product
R icon for “registered design”
  • Design Patent – this protects the appearance of a product
TM logo for trademark protection
  • Trademarks – this protects the branding of a product, company or business
Copyright protection symbol on grey background
  • Copyright – this predominantly protects ‘works of art’ or audio or written material and also applies to some software and computer programs

Patent Types: Utility, Design, & Plant

A patent is a type of property right that gives the patent holder the right, for a limited time, to exclude others from making, using, offering to sell, selling, or importing into the United States the subject matter that is within the scope of protection granted by the patent. There are three types of patents – utility patent, design patent, and plant patent. If you are asking ‘how to patent my idea?’ then get in touch now and see how we can help.

Exploded view of product components that would be submitted with Utility Patent application
2nd view of product component structure typical of materials submitted for utility patent type

Most projects that Innovate Product Design deal with may be protected by some sort of patent, typically a utility patent.  In any event filing an application for a utility patent (at the right price!) can be a very helpful commercial step in the development of an idea to a product.In order to have the ability to perhaps obtain a granted patent monopoly claim the subject matter sought to be patented must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before (with some limited exceptions for prior disclosure) that it may be said to be non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention. For example, the substitution of one color for another, or changes in size, are ordinarily not patentable; much as they would not ordinarily constitute a good enough reasons to try and compete.

Trademark Protection

A trademark protects words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. Trademark protection, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce.Not every mark is registrable with the USPTO. Nor is every mark legally protectable.  The USPTO will also refuse registration of a proposed mark for many other reasons, including but not limited to the mark being: geographically descriptive of the origin of the goods/services; offensive; an individual’s name or likeness; the title of a single book and/or movie. But while some of these are an absolute bar to registration, others may be overcome by evidence under certain circumstances.Registration helps with enforcement of a trademark.  Individual states may offer trademark protection limited to that state.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) registers federal trademarks.

Word trademark with a red pin

Before a trademark/service mark application, you should consider (1) whether the mark you want to register is registrable, and (2) how difficult it will be to protect your mark based on the mark strength. As the mark’s owner you will be solely responsible for its enforcement.

Copyright Protection

Copyright protects ‘works of art’ or authorship, such as writings, music, and works of art that have been tangibly expressed. The Library of Congress registers copyrights which last for the life of the author plus 70 years.In 1989, the U.S. enacted the Berne Convention Implementation Act, which makes copyright protection automatic.  However benefits are available to those who register, such as damages for infringement.  The U.S. Copyright Office and Register of Copyrights, were created in 1897 as a separate department of the Library of Congress.  The Office’s holds the world’s largest database of copyrighted works and copyright ownership information.

Director’s board symbolic of copyright protection in films

NB: Innovate Product Design is not a law firm, but a product design firm, with wide experience of design matters and what makes for commercial success, also having a very keen understanding of the requirements of individual inventors.  Innovate produces cost-effective technical specifications describing your idea in-house with reference to your designers, then all patent matters are dealt with by a Patent Firm.  Innovate stress to clients that all disclosures made before a use of a Patent Firm should be kept confidential and there be no offer for sale or public use of the invention, to maximize chances of obtaining protection to the invention and improvements.  There may be short- and long-term risks as well as benefits involved in any approach, and we advise that the client takes advice on these risks.