U.S. begins participation in the Hague Agreement on industrial designs
Starting on May 13, 2015, the United States began participating in the Hague Agreement on industrial designs. The Hague Agreement provides a streamlined process for filing design applications in multiple countries through a single application. Many countries have participated in the Hague Agreement for a long time, but the U.S. and Japan are finally joining in. U.S. applicants can now file international design applications directly with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This process can save both time and money for anyone interested in filing a design application in multiple countries. In addition, the patent term is now extended to 15 years from the date of issuance instead of the traditional 14-year design patent term. For valuable designs, this extra year can be a huge boost.
How are a design and utility patent different?
Unlike utility patents, which protect the functionality of an invention, design patents protect the non-functional ornamental design of an invention. Although we always want to protect the functionality of an invention if possible, design patents can be an important part of a patent portfolio. For instance, if you have an invention that is not functionally novel but just looks different, then a design patent can protect your unique ornamental design. If both the functionality of your invention and the ornamental design are unique, you may be able to get a utility patent to protect the functionality and a design patent to protect the ornamental design. Some benefits of design patents are that they are generally easier and faster to obtain compared to utility patents, and they are also generally less expensive.