A utility patent protects the structural and functional aspects of a new or improved product or system. A design patent covers the unique appearance of an item.
A US design or utility patent gives its owner the right to exclude others from commercializing the patented product only in the United States. As a result, foreign patents must be obtained to provide coverage in non-domestic markets.
Many questions have been raised about the patentability of software in the wake of the Alice Corp. decision by the Supreme Court.
The Federal Circuit recently held in In Re Maatita that a single plan-view drawing in a design patent application for a shoe bottom sufficiently enabled the claimed design, and the lack of additional drawings did not result in an indefinite claim.
This holding could help applicants with pending design applications that do not show the complete three-dimensional appearance of certain features. Additionally, when drafting a design application, the amount of the design that needs to be claimed with solid lines could be reduced in some cases. Read more.
In a long-running smartphone case that made headlines when it reached the Supreme Court in 2016, a California jury decided last week that Samsung owes Apple $533 million for infringing three design patents, while awarding only $5 million for infringing two of Apple’s utility patents.
The verdict hinges on a key distinction between design patents and utility patents: owners of design patents can recover the infringer’s total profits for infringement. The jury’s ruling also reinforces the role of design patents in protecting high tech products where the look and feel of the device is used to differentiate from the competition. Read more.