Design Patents: Under Utilized and Overlooked

Once upon a time, one of the ways you could spot scams from legitimate operators in the patent industry was to look at who was directing clients to get design patents. Design patents have always been easy to obtain, indeed, far easier to obtain than a utility patent. Of course, as with many things in life and with virtually everything in the realm of intellectual property law, the easier something is to obtain the less valuable it is to own. This general rule about easier and cheaper rights has been turned upside down in recent years with respect to design patents, at least to some extent. Unfortunately, not nearly enough individuals and companies are seeking design patent protection. In 2019, for example, there were 46,847 design patent applications filed, which represents 7.01% of the total number of patent applications filed in 2019. So, although design patents are being filed in larger numbers year after year (See Figure 1), as a percentage of the overall number of patent applications filed, they are largely staying within the 50-year historical norm (See Figure 2). Data taken from U.S. Patent Activity.

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