Recent Smart phone patents

Innovation in Technology

Recent SmartPhone PatentsSmartphone technology moves at the speed of light. This means that manufacturers are continually pursuing patent protection for their new tech in jurisdictions around the world. While many of these technological innovations won’t show up on smartphones for years, others may be available the next time you are ready for an upgrade.

Here’s a look at some of the latest tech patents that are being pursued around the world by smartphone manufacturers.

The Reverse Notch Display

Notched smartphone displays were introduced a couple of years ago, primarily being seen on the Apple iPhone X and the iPhone XS. A smartphone that has a notched display doesn’t have a regularly shaped rectangular screen. Instead, there is a cutout somewhere in the design.

That cutout may house any number of different components such a front-facing camera, speakers or sensors. Manufacturers may choose to include a notched display on a smartphone to achieve a more attractive screen-to-body ratio, to make the overall phone smaller or to provide more screen space.

Currently, Samsung is pursuing a design patent application in Korea for a smartphone display with a reverse notch. The disclosure says that Samsung is seeking to maximize the screen size, which means that the notch is placed above a full-size display. Accordingly, “a display panel [is] attached to the back of the cover window used in a smartphone. The cover window includes a protruding portion at the top center …”.

This doesn’t sound like a particularly practical solution, so we’ll see if it ever hits the marketplace.

Masking the Punch-Hole Camera

When Samsung innovated the punch-hole, front-facing camera on their Galaxy S10 series, it was ground-breaking technology. Today, it’s old news. Samsung plans to drop the feature on its new phones, and ZTE is seeking patent protection for a means of masking the black dot on the home screen so that users can have maximum screen space.

The new tech moves the camera to a high corner of the screen so that it aligns with notification icons. It looks like it’s just part of that row, placed next to the battery icon. The ultimate goal is to eliminate as much of the smartphone bezel as possible. This is just one more way to get the job done.

Dual In-Display Cameras

In an effort to do away with the need for a pop-up mechanism or a display cutout to be used with a front-facing camera, a new patent has been obtained in China by Xiaomi. In the patent’s disclosure, the invention would involve a pair of cameras placed under the display.

Once again, this helps to maximize the screen-to-body ratio. The camera operates through the transparent display, with the only real downside being that the display can interfere with image quality. In other words, this technology is definitely still under development. While it may appear on some of the latest mid- and low-range smartphone models, it’s unlikely to appear on the higher-end phones until some of the kinks have been worked out.

A Better Battery-Life Meter

Anxious to get back into the smartphone game, Microsoft is pursuing patent protection for an improved battery-life meter. According to the disclosure, the improvements are directed toward providing users with more comprehensive data concerning how much battery life is remaining. This means that the smartphone could not only measure the battery level but also provide usage times based on a variety of scenarios so that people can maximize the remaining battery life.

If you’re interested in pursuing patent protection for any type of technology, then contact Williams IP Law to schedule a free consultation.

Differences Between Patent Engineers, Patent Agents and Patent Attorneys

The Inventors Expertise

Inventors frequently are experts in their particular field. They understand the pertinent technology, and they have developed an innovation that may revolutionize the field.

It’s only natural for this individual to want to obtain a patent on their invention. Occasionally, inventors are tempted to draft a patent application and to try to prosecute it without assistance. This generally ends up being a costly error.

Although the inventor possesses incredibly detailed knowledge of their invention, they do not have any training or experience when it comes to writing a proper patent specification. Moreover, they likely do not have the legal knowledge that is necessary to complete prosecution. This lack of experience and knowledge may cause them to make a fatal error that precludes them from obtaining any patent protection.

Working with a professional in the intellectual property field can help to prevent this situation. It also ensures that you don’t end up with a patent that is so broad that it is essentially meaningless or with one that is so narrow in scope that it doesn’t provide any protection.

Most of these professionals work in intellectual property law firms. Patent engineers, patent agents and patent attorneys all may work together to ensure that your invention gets the legal protection that it deserves. What are the differences between these patent professionals?

Patent Engineers

A person who works as a patent engineer must have considerable specialized knowledge in a scientific or technical field. While they have not passed the patent bar and are not a lawyer, they still are able to perform numerous essential functions.

Patent engineers may perform searches in various databases to discover prior art for a particular invention. This may help with a decision regarding whether or not patent protection may be available for a certain innovation. The engineer may write reports or even provide much of the detail for the specification of the patent application.

Occasionally, the patent engineer works closely with the inventor to better understand the new product or process so that it can be adequately described in the specification.

Patent Agents

Like patent engineers, patent agents have a great deal of knowledge in scientific or technical areas. It’s not unusual for these professionals to hold a graduate degree or a Ph.D. Moreover, they have passed the Patent Bar Exam before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This qualifies them to file patent applications, advise clients as to the patentability of their inventions and to assess prior art.

While patent agents are qualified to handle almost any patent prosecution matter before the USPTO, they are expressly prohibited from providing legal advice. Accordingly, clients who need legal counsel for any business-related matter that is connected to their pursuit of a patent will need to work with a patent attorney.

One of the main advantages of working with a patent agent as opposed to a patent attorney is the cost. Their hourly rates tend to be more affordable.

Patent Attorneys

A patent attorney is essentially a patent agent who also holds a legal degree. Like engineers and agents, these attorneys must have formal education in a scientific or technical area. This may include a Bachelor of Science, Master of Science or a Ph.D. These professionals then attend law school, and they must pass the bar exam in the state where they intend to practice.

Next, they must pass the Patent Bar Exam to practice before the USPTO. With their education and background, patent attorneys are prepared to handle all facets of patent prosecution. This may include litigation if a patent is being infringed.

While it may cost more to hire a patent attorney than a patent agent, it is typically worth the expense. Working with a patent attorney provides you with all of the knowledge and skill that you’ll need to negotiate the process of pursuing patent protection.

As all of these patent professionals typically are employed by an intellectual property law firm, it is likely that an inventor may encounter at least two and perhaps all three of these professionals. Each one is working toward the same goal of obtaining the broadest, most meaningful and enforceable protection that is available for your invention.
Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Patent vs copyright vs trademark


People who are unfamiliar with the various forms of intellectual property protection often use terms like “patent,” “trademark” and “copyright” almost interchangeably. In reality, these are three distinct forms of protection, each of which is designed to defend your rights to a specific type of intellectual property.

Understanding the difference is critical when you want to ensure that you have the right to fully defend your intellectual property. An intellectual property attorney can provide customized guidance and advice in your unique situation. Nonetheless, it is possible to describe here the three major forms of intellectual property protection.


What Is a Patent?

A patent protects a new invention, which may be a machine, a product, a process or a chemical composition. It is possible to obtain a patent on the design or appearance of an item just as it is possible to patent a new plant species.

A patent does not grant the holder the right to manufacture or sell their invention. Instead, it gives them the right to exclude others from using their proprietary innovation. Thus, if a patent holder notices that a competitor is selling a product that infringes on their patent rights, the patent holder may sue the alleged infringer.

Patents are only valid for a finite period of time. An invention is protected by a utility patent, which is valid for 20 years from the filing date of the patent application. A design patent is valid for only 14 years from its filing date.

While the patent is in force, it is possible for the owner to license it to others who may manufacture, sell or otherwise use the patented subject matter. Patent owners also may sell their rights to another party.

What Is a Trademark?

Trademarks may take many forms, including a single word or an entire phrase. A trademark registration also may cover a design, symbol or a combination of text and a design.

The strongest trademarks are unique and distinctive. Their primary purpose is to identify the source of the goods or services on which they are used. For example, when people see the famous Nike “swoosh” on a pair of shoes, they are immediately able to identify the footwear as coming from Nike.

In the U.S., trademarks are registered for particular goods and services that the owner must identify in their application for registration. Use of the mark in connection with the goods or services must begin in U.S. commerce before a registration can be obtained.

Accordingly, a company or individual may apply for a trademark registration that covers a wide variety of goods and services such as restaurant services, t-shirts and music performances. Before a registration can be obtained, the owner must demonstrate that the mark is actually being used on all of these goods and services. If they decide not to use their trademark on t-shirts, then these goods must be deleted from the application before the mark can proceed to registration.

U.S. trademarks are renewable in perpetuity for 10-year periods. Every 10 years, the owner must submit fees and proof that the mark is still being used in commerce.

What Is a Copyright?

A copyright is used to protect any work of original authorship. While most people understand that a book is copyrighted, they may be more surprised to learn that a painting, sculpture, choreographic work, photograph, movie or software code also may be protected with a copyright.

Copyright protection is automatic in the U.S. As soon as a creative expression is captured in some tangible form, it is copyrighted. However, it is further possible to register the material with the U.S. Copyright Office. Doing so provides the owner with additional means of protecting their original work.

This means that the author has control over reproductions of their work as well as any derivative works. Any public performance or display of their work may only be pursued with the author’s permission. Failure to obtain such permission may lead to litigation.

Typically, the term of a registered copyright is the lifetime of the work’s author plus an additional 70 years.

Which Type of IP Protection Should You Pursue?

If you are an inventor, innovator or entrepreneur, then you may need to pursue one or more forms of IP protection. A software developer could copyright the code on a new program, obtain a trademark registration for the software’s name and get a patent on a process within the program.

Working with a qualified intellectual property attorney is the best way to ensure that your rights are sufficiently protected by patents, trademarks and copyrights.

Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Apple’s New iPhone Patents


Two New Camera-Related Patents Granted to Apple

Consumers look to Apple for innovative technology that enables them to do more with their smartphones, tablets, computers and more. To meet this demand, Apple has built a reputation as an aggressive seeker of patent protection.

It is not unusual for Apple to file dozens of patent applications at a time. Additionally, they have a habit of acquiring patents from smaller innovators, which further helps to support their reputation as a leader in technology innovations.

That reputation is bolstered by two of the new U.S. patents that were recently granted to Apple. Both are related to camera technology. While one of these inventions may one day end up in the hands of consumers, the other may be used by Apple as part of the manufacturing process.

The Standalone Depth Camera

U.S. Patent No. 10,298,913 is directed to Apple’s family of TrueDepth camera innovations. This patent, in particular, requires a table-mounted device that is able to quickly and comprehensively scan an entire room and its contents.

According to the disclosure in the patent, the device relies upon a scanner and a light-emitting transmitter to generate time-of-flight data. This data then produces a depth map that is akin to the capabilities of a smartphone camera that is enabled to capture images in three dimensions.

In the case of the current patent, the device includes a gimbal that rotates so that the device may capture the entire room. As it turns, light pulses are projected all around with the assistance of a mirror mechanism. Some embodiments of the invention include the projection of images onto objects in the room using the calculated depth data for reference.

This is not Apple’s first patent that is related to the TrueDepth camera technology. Other patents are directed toward the company’s face ID system, which is sometimes called a “vision system.” This system measures the depth of the subject’s facial features to create a map. This data is then transformed into a mathematical representation that makes determining a particular subject’s identity with unquestionable certainty.

It is unknown at this time what Apple plans to do with the subject matter of the most recent patent.

Body Including Surface Having Concentric Annular Portions

The other patent that was recently granted to Apple appears to be directed to technology that may be used in the manufacturing process. Referred to as a “confocal inspection system,” the invention is capable of analyzing light at narrow, specific depths within a chosen scene or object. To obtain the most accurate data, information that may be obtained from other depths is ignored.

In general practice, similar devices may be used to create a three-dimensional image one thin slice at a time. The optical properties of a selected sample also may be measured by such a device.

Commonly, these devices would use a Fresnel lens to capture the necessary data. This new invention from Apple uses ring-shaped, or annular, components to accomplish this instead. These annular portions reflect light in order to capture the desired data. Such devices may be used in conjunction with materials science or the inspection of semiconductors, suggesting that this technology may not be intended for use by consumers.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

How Do Patents Encourage Innovation

The Basic Argument

Imagine a world where ideas weren’t protected. You’d find a host of problems that came from it such as people never getting to profit from their ideas. The problem with that? No one would feel the drive to innovate if there were no reward from doing it. Patents were invented as a way of protecting intellectual property. If you spent decades working on a project, you’d want some rightful compensation for it.

Protecting Ideas

The concept of protecting ideas goes back to July 31, 1790, when Samuel Hopkins was granted a patent for a unique method of producing potash, but some people believe that the idea of protecting ideas could actually hinder innovation—whether that’s true or not depends on opinion. While it makes sense in theory that patents protect innovation and innovation is good for society, the inventor often gets rights over a broad subject matter, which can stifle innovation. The person who has the patent rights will normally have control over it for a 20-year period where they basically have a monopoly on the idea. For example, let’s say that someone was given the rights for a steam-powered train. Only the individual who had the rights to the steam-powered train could innovate with it, or they could face lawsuits in the court. At the end of the patent period, anyone can innovate with the idea.

Difficult to Prove

Almost any CEO working in a business will tell people that his patents are crucial to protecting his business. Economists, on the other hand, have questioned this idea for years. Another problem comes from how the lack of a patent can take the steam out of someone’s engine. For example, a patent gives an individual a reason to develop his ideas further. However, if the patent application gets rejected for whatever reason, the chance of the invention going to the market decrease by as much as 13 percent. The individual could have a great idea, but they give up if they fail to get the idea through the patent process, they sometimes give up earlier than what they should have.

Does This Question Matter?

Asking whether patents are harmful is a kind of idle question because almost every country in the world uses the patent system. In addition, no one has any plans of dismantling the system because it has been highly useful and protected the rights of business owners. However, it is a useful question to wonder what the world might be like without patents. Would it encourage innovation or hinder it?

The Concern in Technology

One of the chief concerns of it coming from the technology sector is the fact that it could block off entire areas for development and research. Let’s say that you have a breast cancer gene patent. It could stop further research from other people developing it. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. People negotiating to be allowed to further develop the idea could hinder the innovation in the field under the wrong circumstances.

Some of the strategies that you will find that people have used as a workaround in the field of biomedicine include:

  • Ignore a broad patent too broad to challenge.
  • Combine the technologies.
  • Redirecting the efforts towards research.
  • Get engaged with licensing.

The one thing that we have to understand is how these ideas aren’t without their share of difficulties.

Adjusting the System

We shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater because the patent system does a great job at protecting people and rewarding those who come up with innovative ideas. However, in the future, we should look at figuring out ways that could help with enhancing innovation through patents.

The patent has become an effective tool for sharing knowledge. In fact, many places like the US, Europe and Japan depend on patent information because it allows them to understand how far technology has come. The idea is that hopefully, it will assist with sparking more valuable ideas. Thomas Edison gives us one historic example of a figure who would visit the patent office as a way of giving him ideas for his own inventions. This could, fact, be a good thing because otherwise, inventors would rightfully guard their inventions secretively, and this could harm innovation.\

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Apple to Close East Texas Stores to Thwart Patent Trolls

Too often in recent memory, patent trolls have forced organizations both large and small to make decisions that run counter to their business plans. This is the case with Apple, which recently took the drastic step of announcing its plans to close two of its stores in the Eastern District of Texas. Though they do not say it in so many words, in-the-know observers understand that the closure of these stores is a bid by Apple to protect itself from patent troll litigation.

What Are Patent Trolls?

Sometimes called a Patent Assertion Entity, or PAE, a patent troll is not an inventor or a creator. They don’t manufacture a product or provide a service. Instead, they exist solely to make a profit through patent infringement litigation.

The troll picks up patents at an extremely low cost, usually from an organization that is going through a difficult time and needs to divest itself of assets. The PAE swoops in to buy the patents, then starts looking around for companies that may infringe on the rights of those patents.

Once a potential infringer is identified, the troll sends a letter informing the rival company. They offer a license to the infringer, which may cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. The infringer has a choice to either pay up or face litigation.

Do the infringement claims have merit? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Nonetheless, companies tend to simply pay the licensing fees because it ultimately is cheaper, less time consuming and less disruptive than having to deal with patent litigation, which could drag on for years.


Patent Trolls and the Eastern District of Texas

If they can, patent trolls love to sue for infringement in the Eastern District of Texas. This is because judges and juries in this district have proven to be unusually sympathetic toward the claims of plaintiffs in patent cases. Just a few years ago, a study concluded that approximately 40 percent of all patent infringement cases were filed in this district, with plaintiffs hoping to take advantage of the favorable atmosphere.

However, recent changes to the law state that patent infringement cases must be brought in places where the defendant has “a regular and established place of business.” This means that if a company isn’t operating in this district, then they cannot be sued there.

The Connection Between Apple, Patent Trolls and The Eastern District of Texas

Apple is always the target of patent trolls, and in recent memory, a court decided that the tech-giant should pay VirnetX $440 million in connection with the company’s patents. The Eastern District of Texas remains a hotbed for patent infringement lawsuits, but Apple is headquartered in California. If they don’t have a permanent place of business within the Eastern District, they cannot be sued there.

Currently, Apple has two stores within the district. These will be closed in mid-April, with employees being shifted to a shopping center in Dallas. In its announcement, Apple mentions upgrading the store and streamlining, but this is a clear maneuver to get out from under the favorable conditions for plaintiffs in the Eastern District.

Apple is a huge and incredibly successful company that can well afford to close a couple of stores without it affecting their bottom line too much. They can even afford to pay out some sizable settlements when patent trolls come knocking. However, paying patent trolls and getting mired down in years of litigation likely are not parts of Apple’s business plan, so this contingency becomes necessary.

Protection Against Patent Trolls

Firms both large and small would be wise to look for ways to protect themselves from patent trolls. One of the best ways to do this is with the assistance of experienced intellectual property and business attorney. Their advice may help to ensure that patent trolls don’t succeed when they try to press a meritless lawsuit on an unsuspecting victim.

Schedule a free consultation with the Law Office of Jeff Williams to get gudiance on your intellectual property needs.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

What Is a Provisional Patent Application?

A great deal of intellectual property terminology is carelessly tossed around these days with the result that there’s confusion in the public about these terms. Consequently, people wonder about what a trademark is and how it’s different from a copyright. Or, they have serious questions about “provisional patents.”

This last question is especially troubling to legal professionals who work in the realm of intellectual property because there’s no such thing as a “provisional patent.”

However, there is a “provisional patent application,” and it can be a powerful tool for inventors in the U.S. Unlike a regular, non-provisional patent application, a provisional patent application is never examined by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is never published, and it will never mature into an actual patent.

This may make it sound as if filing a provisional patent application in the U.S. is a waste of time, but that is absolutely untrue. Some inventors have exceptionally good reasons for filing this type of application, and your patent practitioner may recommend that you do so based on the status of your invention.

First to File

In the U.S. and other countries, it doesn’t matter so much who is the first to invent a new product or process. Instead, the real race is to be the first person to file a patent application for the idea. This is because the law states that whoever is the first to file a patent application is the rightful owner of the invention.

If another individual files a patent application for the same invention, then they have virtually no chance of obtaining patent protection because someone else got there first. Accordingly, a provisional patent application is one tool that may be used to ensure that the applicant is the first to file the paperwork.

What Is Contained in a Provisional Patent Application?

A provisional patent application typically is shorter and less formal than a non-provisional patent application. This is because the disclosure will never be reviewed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Nonetheless, the provisional patent application must contain a clear and concise disclosure that adequately describes the subject matter of the invention.

Unlike a non-provisional patent application, a provisional patent application does not need to have claims. It may include drawings to further illustrate the subject matter of the application.

Why File a Provisional Patent Application?

One of the main reasons to file a provisional patent application is to meet the first-to-file requirement in accordance with U.S. intellectual property law. The first person who files is far more likely to receive any available patent protection than an applicant with a later filing date.

The provisional application lasts for precisely 12 months. During this time, the applicant may make improvements or refinements to their invention. They also may work on formalizing their patent application, such as completing claims that more specifically point out the subject matter that they seek to protect.

Filing a provisional patent application also allows the inventor to say that their creation is patent pending. This can be enormously attractive when seeking funding or partners for the endeavor. Moreover, the filing of a provisional application provides an earlier effective filing date for any non-provisional or foreign application that is filed later.

Is a Provisional Application Right for You?

The best way to find out is by consulting with a qualified patent attorney. They can suggest the best method for seeking patent protection for your invention, and they may recommend performing a search to ensure that patent protection likely is available for your idea. In the long run, this saves you time and money.


Closing

At the Law Office of Jeff Williams we help clients navigate through all the intricacies of intellectual property including provisional patent applications.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

The difference between utility and design patents

Did you know that it’s possible to get more than one type of patent through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office?

Officially, there are three types of patents. These are utility patents, design patents and plant patents.

Plant Patents

Plant patents are only granted to inventors who have created and asexually reproduced a new plant variety. Accordingly, this type of patent applies only to a small number of inventions.

Utility and Desing Patents

Utility and designs patents are far more common. How do you know which one you should apply for? That really depends upon the content of your invention. If you are unsure, then an intellectual property attorney can provide you with the guidance you require.

What Is a Utility Patent?

When people file a patent application in the U.S., they are nearly always seeking a utility patent. The subject matter of such an application may relate to a new product, machine or process. Alternatively, the subject matter may relate to a substantial improvement to an existing product, machine or process. This type of patent application includes a detailed description of the elements that make up the invention. It also includes “claims” that more particularly point out the subject matter that the inventor wishes to cover in the patent. Frequently, drawings that further describe the invention are included in the application.

Advantages of a Utility Patent

Utility patents remain in force for a period of approximately 20 years. During this substantial time period, the patent owner has the right to prevent others from manufacturing, using or offering for sale any items that infringe on the inventor’s rights. Utility patents cover broader subject matter than design patents, and the disclosure in the application can be quite detailed. This means that the inventor can obtain broader protection than he could with design patents.

What Is a Design Patent?

While utility patents are intended to cover functional items, design patents cover the aesthetics of an existing product. The design must be distinctive and original. Typically, an inventor or designer will pursue such a patent when the appearance of the item is an important component of the distinctiveness and success of the product. Design patents only protect what is shown in the patent drawing. Accordingly, such a patent covers ornamental characteristics that may be applied to or are embodied in an item. This may include surface ornamentation or the configuration and shape of a product. The drawings in design patents also may show elements that are not being claimed as part of the design. These elements are illustrated in dotted lines to show that they are not being claimed.

Advantages of a Design Patent

It is far less expensive to pursue design protection when compared with utility protection. While a design patent lasts only for about 15 years, no periodic fees are required to keep design patents in force for the entire length of their term, which makes designs a far more affordable option. Typically, sizable maintenance fees must be paid to keep utility patents in force for their entire term. Additionally, it is far easier and quicker to obtain design patents than utility patents. Such a patent allows the owner to prevent others from making or selling a product with an infringing design.


Choosing the Right Patent Type

Which type of patent protection is appropriate for your invention? If you have created a brand new product or process that the world has never seen before or if you have made a significant, material improvement in an existing product, then a utility application is the right choice. However, if your creation is a new “look” for an existing product, then design protection is the way to go. There also are instances in which you may want to file for both utility and design coverage. Schedule a consultation with an intellectual property attorney to determine which type of protection is right for your invention.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.