A Guide to Design Patent Drawings

Definition of a Design

A design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. Since a design is manifested in appearance, the subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation. A design for surface ornamentation is inseparable from the article to which it is applied and cannot exist alone. It must be a definite pattern of surface ornamentation, applied to an article of manufacture.

In discharging its patent-related duties, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO or Office) examines applications and grants patents on inventions when applicants are entitled to them. The patent law provides for the granting of design patents to any person who has invented any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. A design patent protects only the appearance of the article and not structural or utilitarian features. The principal statutes (United States Code) governing design patents are:
 

35 U.S.C. 171

35 U.S.C. 172

35 U.S.C. 173

35 U.S.C. 102

35 U.S.C. 103

35 U.S.C. 112

35 U.S.C. 132

The rules (Code of Federal Regulations) pertaining to the drawing disclosure of a design patent application are:
 

37 CFR § 1.84

37 CFR § 1.152

37 CFR § 1.121

The following additional rules have been referred to in this guide:

37 CFR § 1.3

37 CFR § 1.63

37 CFR § 1.76

37 CFR § 1.153

37 CFR § 1.154

37 CFR § 1.155

A copy of these laws and rules is included at the end of this guide.

The practice and procedures relating to design applications are set forth in chapter 1500 of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP). Inquiries relating to the sale of the MPEP should be directed to the Superintendent of Documents, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Telephone: 202.512.1800.

Types of Designs and Modified Forms

An ornamental design may be embodied in an entire article or only a portion of an article, or may be ornamentation applied to an article. If a design is directed to just surface ornamentation, it must be shown applied to an article in the drawings, and the article must be shown in broken lines, as it forms no part of the claimed design.

A design patent application may only have a single claim (37 CFR § 1.153). Designs that are independent and distinct must be filed in separate applications since they cannot be supported by a single claim. Designs are independent if there is no apparent relationship between two or more articles. For example, a pair of eyeglasses and a door handle are independent articles and must be claimed in separate applications. Designs are considered distinct if they have different shapes and appearances even though they are related articles. For example, two vases having different surface ornamentation creating distinct appearances must be claimed in separate applications. However, modified forms, or embodiments of a single design concept may be filed in one application. For example, vases with only minimal configuration differences may be considered a single design concept and both embodiments may be included in a single application.

The Difference Between Design and Utility Patents

In general terms, a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a “design patent” protects the way an article looks (35 U.S.C. 171). Both design and utility patents may be obtained on an article if invention resides both in its utility and ornamental appearance. While utility and design patents afford legally separate protection, the utility and ornamentality of an article are not easily separable. Articles of manufacture may possess both functional and ornamental characteristics.

Improper Subject Matter for Design Patents

A design for an article of manufacture that is dictated primarily by the function of the article lacks ornamentality and is not proper statutory subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 171. Specifically, if at the time the design was created, there was no unique or distinctive shape or appearance to the article not dictated by the function that it performs, the design lacks ornamentality and is not proper subject matter. In addition, 35 U.S.C. 171 requires that a design to be patentable must be “original.” Clearly a design that simulates a well-known or naturally occurring object or person is not original as required by the statute. Furthermore, subject matter that could be considered offensive to any race, religion, sex, ethnic group, or nationality is not proper subject matter for a design patent application (35 U.S.C. 171 and 37 CFR § 1.3).

Invention Development Organizations

Invention Development Organizations (IDO) are private and public consulting and marketing businesses that exist to help inventors bring their inventions to market, or to otherwise profit from their ideas. While many of these organizations are legitimate, some are not. Be wary of any IDO that is willing to promote your invention or product without making a detailed inquiry into the merits of your idea and giving you a full range of options which may or may not include the pursuit of patent protection. Some IDOs will automatically recommend that you pursue patent protection for your idea with little regard for the value of any patent that may ultimately issue. For example, an IDO may recommend that you add ornamentation to your product in order to render it eligible for a design patent, but not really explain to you the purpose or effect of such a change. Because design patents protect only the appearance of an article of manufacture, it is possible that minimal differences between similar designs can render each patentable. Therefore, even though you may ultimately receive a design patent for your product, the protection afforded by such a patent may be somewhat limited. Finally, you should also be aware of the broad distinction between utility and design patents, and realize that a design patent may not give you the protection desired.

Elements of a Design Patent Application

The elements of a design patent application should include the following:

(1) Preamble, stating name of the applicant, title of the design, and a brief description of the nature and intended use of the article in which the design is embodied;

(2) Cross-reference to related applications (unless included in the application data sheet).

(3) Statement regarding federally sponsored research or development.

(4) Description of the figure(s) of the drawing;

(5) Feature description;

(6) A single claim;

(7) Drawings or photographs;

(8) Executed oath or declaration.

In addition, the filing fee, search fee, and examination fee are also required. If applicant is a small entity, (an independent inventor, a small business concern, or a non-profit organization), these fees are reduced by half.

The Preamble

The Preamble, if included, should state the name of the applicant, the title of the design, and a brief description of the nature and intended use of the article in which the design is embodied. All information contained in the preamble will be printed on the patent, should the claimed design be deemed patentable.

The Title

The Title of the design must identify the article in which the design is embodied by the name generally known and used by the public. Marketing designations are improper as titles and should not be used. A title descriptive of the actual article aids the examiner in developing a complete field of search of the prior art. It further aids in the proper assignment of new applications to the appropriate class, subclass, and patent examiner, as well as the proper classification of the patent upon allowance of the application. It also helps the public in understanding the nature and use of the article embodying the design after the patent has been published. Thus, applicants are encouraged to provide a specific and descriptive title.

The Figure Descriptions

The Figure Descriptions indicate what each view of the drawings represents, i.e., front elevation, top plan, perspective view, etc.

Any description of the design in the specification, other than a brief description of the drawing, is generally not necessary since, as a general rule, the drawing is the design’s best description. However, while not required, a special description is not prohibited.

In addition to the figure descriptions, the following types of statements are permissible in the specification:

1. A description of the appearance of portions of the claimed design which are not illustrated in the drawing disclosure (i.e., “the right side elevational view is a mirror image of the left side”).

2. Description disclaiming portions of the article not shown, that form no part of the claimed design.

3.Statement indicating that any broken line illustration of environmental structure in the drawing is not part of the design sought to be patented.

4.Description denoting the nature and environmental use of the claimed design, if not included in the preamble.

A Single Claim

A design patent application may only include a single claim. The claim defines the design which applicant wishes to patent, in terms of the article in which it is embodied or applied. The claim must be in formal terms to “The ornamental design for (the article which embodies the design or to which it is applied) as shown.” The description of the article in the claim should be consistent in terminology with the title of the invention.

When there is a properly included special description of the design in the specification, or a proper showing of modified forms of the design, or other descriptive matter has been included in the specification, the words “and described” should be added to the claim following the term “shown.” The claim should then read “The ornamental design for (the article which embodies the design or to which it is applied) as shown and described.”

Drawings or Black and White Photographs

The drawing disclosure is the most important element of the application. Every design patent application must include either a drawing or a black and white photograph of the claimed design. As the drawing or photograph constitutes the entire visual disclosure of the claim, it is of utmost importance that the drawing or photograph be clear and complete, that nothing regarding the design sought to be patented is left to conjecture. The design drawing or photograph must comply with the disclosure requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. To meet the requirements of 35 U.S.C. 112, the drawings or photographs must include a sufficient number of views to constitute a complete disclosure of the appearance of the design claimed.

Drawings are normally required to be in black ink on white paper. Black and white photographs, in lieu of drawings, are permitted subject to the requirements of 37 CFR §1.84(b)(1) and §1.152. Applicant should refer to these rules, included at the end of this guide. These rules set forth in detail the requirements for proper drawings in a design patent application.

Black and white photographs submitted on double weight photographic paper must have the drawing figure number entered on the face of the photograph. Photographs mounted on Bristol board may have the figure number shown in black ink on the Bristol board, proximate the corresponding photograph.

Black and white photographs and ink drawings must not be combined in a formal submission of the visual disclosure of the claimed design in one application. The introduction of both photographs and ink drawings in a design application would result in a high probability of inconsistencies between corresponding elements on the ink drawings as compared with the photographs. Photographs submitted in lieu of ink drawings must not disclose environmental structure but must be limited to the claimed design itself.

Color Drawings or Color Photographs

The Office will accept color drawings or photographs in design patent applications only after the granting of a petition filed under 37 CFR §1.84(a)(2), explaining why the color drawings or photographs are necessary. Any such petition must include the fee set forth in 37 CFR § 1.17(h), three sets of color drawings or photographs, and the specification must contain the following language before the description of the drawings:

“The patent or application file contains a least one drawing executed in color. Copies of this patent or patent application publication with color drawing(s) will be provided by the Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee.”

If color photographs are submitted as informal drawings and the applicant does not consider the color to be part of the claimed design, a disclaimer should be added to the specification as follows: “The color shown on the claimed design forms no part thereof.” Color will be considered an integral part of the disclosed and claimed design in the absence of a disclaimer filed with the original application. A disclaimer may only be used when filing color photographs as informal drawings, as 37 CFR §1.152 requires that the disclosure in formal photographs be limited to the design for the article claimed.

The Views

The drawings or photographs should contain a sufficient number of views to completely disclose the appearance of the claimed design, i.e., front, rear, right and left sides, top and bottom. While not required, it is suggested that perspective views be submitted to clearly show the appearance and shape of three-dimensional designs. If a perspective view is submitted, the surfaces shown would normally not be required to be illustrated in other views if these surfaces are clearly understood and fully disclosed in the perspective.

Views that are merely duplicates of other views of the design or that are merely flat and include no ornamentality may be omitted from the drawing if the specification makes this explicitly clear. For example, if the left and right sides of a design are identical or a mirror image, a view should be provided of one side and a statement made in the drawing description that the other side is identical or a mirror image. If the bottom of the design is flat, a view of the bottom may be omitted if the figure descriptions include a statement that the bottom is flat and unornamented. The term “unornamented” should not be used to describe visible surfaces that include structure that is clearly not flat. In some cases, the claim may be directed to an entire article, but because all sides of the article may not be visible during normal use, it is not necessary to disclose them. A sectional view which more clearly brings out elements of the design is permissible, however a sectional view presented to show functional features, or interior structure not forming part of the claimed design, is neither required nor permitted.

Surface Shading

The drawing should be provided with appropriate surface shading which shows clearly the character and contour of all surfaces of any three-dimensional aspects of the design. Surface shading is also necessary to distinguish between any open and solid areas of the design. Solid black surface shading is not permitted except when used to represent the color black as well as color contrast. Lack of appropriate surface shading in the drawing as filed may render the shape and contour of the design nonenabling under 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph. Additionally, if the shape of the design is not evident from the disclosure as filed, addition of surface shading after filing may be viewed as new matter. New matter is anything that is added to, or from, the claim, drawings or specification, that was neither shown nor suggested in the original application (see 35 U.S.C. 132 and 37 CFR § 1.121, at the end of this guide).

Broken Lines

A broken line disclosure is understood to be for illustrative purposes only and forms no part of the claimed design. Structure that is not part of the claimed design, but is considered necessary to show the environment in which the design is used, may be represented in the drawing by broken lines. This includes any portion of an article in which the design is embodied or applied to that is not considered part of the claimed design. When the claim is directed to just surface ornamentation for an article, the article in which it is embodied must be shown in broken lines.

In general, when broken lines are used, they should not intrude upon or cross the showing of the claimed design and should not be of heavier weight than the lines used in depicting the claimed design. Where a broken line showing of environmental structure must necessarily cross or intrude upon the representation of the claimed design and obscures a clear understanding of the design, such an illustration should be included as a separate figure in addition to the other figures which fully disclose the subject matter of the design.

The Oath or Declaration

The oath or declaration required of the applicant must comply with the requirements set forth in 37 CFR §1.63.

Disclosure Examples

So that the applicant will better understand what constitutes a complete disclosure, examples of drawing disclosures and their accompanying specifications are provided on the following pages.

Disclosure Examples

Example 1-Disclosure Of The Entire Article

I, John Doe, have invented a new design for a jewelry cabinet, as set forth in the following specification. The claimed jewelry cabinet is used to store jewelry and could sit on a bureau.

Fig. 1 is a front elevational view of a jewelry cabinet showing my new design;

Fig. 2 is a rear elevational view thereof;

Fig. 3 is a left side elevational view thereof;

Fig. 4 is a right side elevational view thereof;

Fig. 5 is a top plan view thereof; and

Fig. 6 is a bottom plan view thereof.

I claim: the ornamental design for a jewelry cabinet as shown.

Drawing Disclosure:

Jewelry Cabinet fully disclosed

Disclosure Examples

Example 2-Disclosure of only the surfaces of an article that are visible during use (no bottom view or description necessary)

I, John Doe, have invented a new design for a jewelry cabinet, as set forth in the following specification. The claimed jewelry cabinet is used for storingjewelry and could sit on a bureau.

Fig. 1 is a front elevational view of a jewelry cabinet showing my new design;

Fig. 2 is a rear elevational view thereof;

Fig. 3 is a left side elevational view thereof;

Fig. 4 is a right side elevational view thereof;

Fig. 5 is a top plan view thereof.

I claim: the ornamental design for a jewelry cabinet as shown.

Drawing Disclosure:

Jewelry Cabinet with only visible surfaces disclosed.

Disclosure Examples

Example 3-Disclosure of only the surfaces of an article that are visible during use – The rear view disclosed by description

I, John Doe, have invented a new design for a jewelry cabinet, as set forth in the following specification. The claimed jewelry cabinet is used for storing jewelry and could sit on a bureau.

Fig. 1 is a front elevational view of a jewelry cabinet showing my new design;

Fig. 2 is a left side elevational view thereof;

Fig. 3 is a right side elevational view thereof; and

Fig. 4 is a top plan view thereof.

The rear of the jewelry cabinet is flat and unornamented.

I claim: the ornamental design for a jewelry cabinet as shown and described.

Drawing Disclosure:

Jewelry cabinet with only four sides disclosed.

Disclosure Examples

Example 4-Disclosure of a surface pattern as claimed design, applied to an article

I, John Doe, have invented a new design for a surface pattern applied to a jewelry cabinet, as set forth in the following specification.

Fig. 1 is a front elevational view of a surface pattern applied to a jewelry cabinet showing my new design;

Fig. 2 is a left side elevational view thereof, the right side being a mirror image.

The jewelry cabinet is shown in broken lines for illustrative purposes only and forms no part of the claimed design.

I claim: the ornamental design for a surface pattern applied to a jewelry cabinet as shown and described.

Drawing Disclosure:

Jewelry cabinet with only appliques claimed.

The Design Patent Application Process

The preparation of a design patent application and the conducting of the proceedings in the USPTO to obtain the patent is an undertaking requiring the knowledge of patent law and rules and Patent and Trademark Office practice and procedures. A patent attorney or agent specially trained in this field is best able to secure the greatest patent protection to which applicant is entitled. It would be prudent to seek the services of a registered patent attorney or agent. Representation, however, is not required. A knowledgeable applicant may successfully prosecute his or her own application. However, while persons not skilled in this work may obtain a patent in many cases, there is no assurance that the patent obtained would adequately protect the particular design.

Of primary importance in a design patent application is the drawing disclosure, which illustrates the design being claimed. Unlike a utility application, where the “claim” describes the invention in a lengthy written explanation, the claim in a design patent application protects the overall visual appearance of the design, “described” in the drawings. It is essential that the applicant present a set of drawings (or photographs) of the highest quality which conform to the rules and standards which are reproduced in this guide. Changes to these drawings after the application has been filed, may introduce new matter, which is not permitted by law (35 U.S.C. 132). It is in applicant’s best interest to ensure that the drawing disclosure is clear and complete prior to filing the application, since an incomplete or poorly prepared drawing may result in a fatally defective disclosure which cannot become a patent. It is recommended that applicant retain the services of a professional draftsperson who specializes in preparing design patent drawings. Examples of acceptable drawings and drawing disclosures are included in this Guide so that applicant will have some idea of what is required and can prepare the drawings accordingly.

Filing An Application

In addition to the drawing disclosure, certain other information is necessary. While no specific format is required, it is strongly suggested that applicant follow the formats presented to ensure that the application is complete.

When a complete design patent application, along with the appropriate filing fee, is received by the Office, it is assigned an Application Number and a Filing Date. A “Filing Receipt” containing this information is sent to the applicant. The application is then assigned to an examiner. Applications are examined in order of their filing date.

Examination

The actual “examination” entails checking for compliance with formalities, ensuring completeness of the drawing disclosure and a comparison of the claimed subject matter with the “prior art.” “Prior art” consists of issued patents and published materials. If the claimed subject matter is found to be patentable, the application will be “allowed,” and instructions will be provided to applicant for completing the process to permit issuance as a patent.

The examiner may reject the claim in the application if the disclosure cannot be understood or is incomplete, or if a reference or combination of references found in the prior art, shows the claimed design to be unpatentable. The examiner will then issue an Office action detailing the rejection and addressing the substantive matters which effect patentability.

This Office action may also contain suggestions by the examiner for amendments to the application. Applicant should keep this Office action for his or her files, and not send it back to the Office.

Response

If, after receiving an Office action, applicant elects to continue prosecution of the application, a timely reply to the action must be submitted. This reply should include a request for reconsideration or further examination of the claim, along with any amendments desired by the applicant, and must be in writing. The reply must distinctly and specifically point out the supposed errors in the Office action and must address every objection and/or rejection in the action. If the examiner has rejected the claim over prior art, a general statement by the applicant that the claim is patentable, without specifically pointing out how the design is patentable over the prior art, does not comply with the rules.

In all cases where the examiner has said that a reply to a requirement is necessary, or where the examiner has indicated patentable subject matter, the reply must comply with the requirements set forth by the examiner, or specifically argue each requirement as to why compliance should not be required.

In any communication with the Office, applicant should include the following items:

1. Application number (checked for accuracy).

2. Group art unit number (copied from filing receipt or the most recent Office action).

3. Filing date.

4. Name of the examiner who prepared the most recent Office action.

5. Title of invention.

It is applicant’s responsibility to make sure that the reply is received by the Office prior to the expiration of the designated time period set for reply. This time period is set to run from the “Date Mailed,” which is indicated on the first page of the Office action. If the reply is not received within the designated time period, the application will be considered abandoned. In the event that applicant is unable to reply within the time period set in the Office action, abandonment may be prevented if a reply is filed within six months from the mail date of the Office action provided a petition for extension of time and the fee set forth in 37 CFR § 1.17(a) are filed. The fee is determined by the amount of time requested, and increases as the length of time increases. These fees are set by Rule and could change at any time. An “Extension of Time” does not have to be obtained prior to the submission of a reply to an Office action; it may be mailed along with the reply. See insert for schedule of current fees. Note: an extension of time cannot be obtained when responding to a “Notice of Allowance and Fee(s) Due.”

To ensure that a time period set for reply to an Office action is not missed; a “Certificate of Mailing” should be attached to the reply. This “Certificate” establishes that the reply is being mailed on a given date. It also establishes that the reply is timely, if it was mailed before the period for reply had expired, and if it is mailed with the United States Postal Service. A “Certificate of Mailing” is not the same as “Certified Mail.” A suggested format for a Certificate of Mailing is as follows:

“I hereby certify that this correspondence is being deposited with the United States Postal Service as first class mail in an envelope addresse