What is a design patent?
A design patent is a specific type of primary patent class designated to protect industrial design rights. Design patents are granted solely based on the disclosure of any ornamental nonfunctional design of a functional item, that is, the actual visual appearance of an object having practical utility (and not the object itself) may be protected. Design patents offer protection against the using, manufacturing, copying, or importing of visually similar items in the United States, and exact visual matches are not required, since even substantially similar copies of a protected ornamental design may infringe upon a design patent. Design patents are valid for 14 years from the date of their issuing, and require no maintenance fees throughout their lifetime.
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Dr. Thomas R. (Terry) Williamson III is a Patent Attorney practicing in Atlanta, Georgia.
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