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What is a Design Patent: Definition and How It Works

Lindokuhle Mkhize

Lindokuhle Mkhize

09 October 20234 min read

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a design patent

ost Ever heard of design patents? Let me break it down for you. A design patent is a type of legal protection granted by the United States (US) government for the unique visual features of an industrial design. If you have a product with an excellent and distinct look, you can apply for a design patent to safeguard your creation.

The importance of design patent protection

Design patents can prevent others from profiting off of your original invention. And why does this matter?

Remember that not only will they profit off your invention financially, but they'll also be taking away from a lot of brand value, which would usually be attributed solely to your business.

While a patent may seem like a significant invention initially, the long-term value of the legal protection offered is well worth it.

How do you patent a design?

Now that you understand what a design patent is and its importance let's start exploring how to patent a design. First and foremost, we'd strongly suggest hiring a patent attorney — why? Well, patent law isn't exactly clear-cut. 

There are a lot of nuances that you may not be familiar with.

And if that's not motivation enough, almost 9/10 patent applications are rejected. A qualified lawyer can ensure you're in that 1/10, saving you time and money!

But just for the sake of giving you an overview, here's the design patent application process in a nutshell:

Perform a patent search

To figure out if a similar design to yours already exists, you'll need to conduct a patent search. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers a useful patent search tool for this purpose.

Compile what you need

Each patent design requires certain elements; these are as follows:

  • Various illustrations of your design. This includes a 3D view at every angle.
  • A declaration confirming your identity.
  • A title and description of your design. Ensure that your description is well-researched and cross-referenced. You'll also need to include descriptions related to your illustrations.
  • Bibliographical information about you.
  • An abstract that acts as the introduction to the design.

Proceed with the application process

You can look up a few examples online of patent applications to get an idea of what yours should look like before proceeding. Once you're ready, submit your application. Proceeding this, you'll have to work closely with your patent examiner.

Amend as needed

The good news is that even if your patent is rejected, there is a brief window where you can make amendments. You may also be requested to argue the merits of the application.

The benefits and downsides of design patents

Okay, so you now understand what design patents are, their importance, and how to file one. Nevertheless, perhaps you remain uncertain because of the time and monetary investment required.

In this case, a pros and cons list will be a great help — let's start with the benefits:

The pros of design patents

Design patents come with several upsides, including but not limited to:

  • They are much cheaper than applying for utility patents.
  • They offer comprehensive intellectual property protection.
  • The protection lasts for 15 years, which gives you plenty of time to establish your unique brand value with the design.

The cons of design patents

Okay, so now that I've gone over the pros, let's start looking at some of the negatives of design patents:

  • Although more affordable, patents only protect ornamental design and don't protect any functionality.
  • Because there's no functional protection, competitors can copy your invention but just alter the design.

Take note: If you need to protect the function, remember that utility patent applications offer a way to protect the utility of your invention.

Okay, so now that I've gone over what patents are, their importance, how to patent designs, and the pros and cons, let's explore why you should seek the counsel of a qualified patent attorney.


While it may be tempting, especially with all this new information, to try to go at it on your own, as we've said before, we strongly advise against it.

As I’ve said earlier, most patent applications are rejected. Now, imagine if a doctor told you you had a 10% chance of having a successful toe operation — you'd look for another doctor!

And so, if the odds of success if you try to file by yourself are so low, why don't you employ someone else? Our patent attorneys are licensed, qualified, experienced and are ready and willing to assist with your patent registration.

Want to learn more? You can! Check out our blog post about the costs of and the different types of patents.

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Lindokuhle Mkhize, a skilled creative copywriter and content lead at Trademarkia, brings a wealth of experience in driving innovation and managing teams. With previous success in starting and growing the Innovation and Marketing department at her former creative agency, Lindokuhle boasts expertise in leadership and delivering compelling content. Based in South Africa, Lindokuhle's work focuses on key themes of creativity, effective communication, and strategic marketing.