Design Patent Drawings: What Are They?

Design patent drawings are illustrations of a manufactured object's design. They're used in design patent applications. They must include detailed information about any contours, shape, material texture, properties, and proportions. Design patent drawings must clearly show every feature visible during use. No part of the object's design should be left to the imagination. Drawings should include shading that indicates surface characteristics. The shaded areas can depict transparent, solid, and open areas.

Include Every Possible View

When creating design patent drawings, the inventor must include all views of the object's design. If you're in doubt about whether to include it, err on the side of too much. Provide images of the front, top, bottom, back, left, and right. Even if the back isn't seen by a regular user, it's best to include it. An example of this is a wall-mounted product. Most consumers won't see the back of the product, but in the design patent application, include a view of the rear.

Mark the left and right sides if they are mirror images. Clearly labeling each will help your application reviewer get a better sense of the exact design.

If your item is flat and thin, only front and rear images are necessary. Make sure to clearly describe reasoning for including fewer pictures of the design.

The exception to including every view is any plain, unornamented view of the item. A plain section won't contribute to your design patent, so you don't need to send images of these portions in with your application.

Consider Perspective Views

A two-dimensional drawing won't show the three dimensions of an object. It's helpful to provide perspective views of the product's design to show the dimensions of the object.

You may also want to include unique views. Sectional views help bring out specific elements. They can also clearly show functional features that make the design unique.

Exploded views are helpful if the design includes separate parts. If the item has components that come apart in typical use, submit images of each part. Make sure to provide a bracket that connects the exploded part to where it fits in the full design.

Provide all perspective views in addition to the required front, top, bottom, back, left, and right views.

Meaning of Dots and Lines

All design patent drawings must be done in a certain style. The technical design includes dots and lines. Apply shading as if a light is shining from the upper left of the image. There are two acceptable types of shading.

  • Linear shading: Linear shading includes parallel lines. You can include broken or continuous lines. The lines help depict shiny or transparent surfaces, such as polished metal, glass, or reflective stone.
  • Stippled shading: Stippled shading includes small dots. This type of shading helps represent contour and shadowing. It is also useful for rough textures, such as concrete, hard foam, or rough fabric.

Surface shading also helps the reviewer see whether the design infringes on an existing patent. Even on a two-dimensional drawing, shading helps showcase the contours and makes the image look more realistic.

You can also use break lines to limit the size of the drawing. If your design is for a manufactured object that is large, you may not be able to draw it to size. Use break lines to create perspective and limit the length, width, or height of the drawing.

User Experience/User Interface

In today's technical world, one emerging field is user experience/user interface (UX/UI). Neither is a physical object, so submitting standard design patent drawings is challenging. However, certain features and design elements are unique to one manufacturer or brand. That's why it's important to have the option to patent the design.

A UX/UI design patent protects aspects like icons, graphical user interfaces, and other similar features. These might move or not, although animated icons are less common under design patents. UX/UI design patents are on the rise as more designers and developers look to protect their unique designs.

Why Are Design Patent Drawings Important?

Design patent drawings are extremely important in the application process. In fact, the application contains few words and far more images. The images bring your design to life and give the reviewer a sense of what you are requesting to patent. Without clear and concise images, you won't receive a design patent.

You must include all required views to meet the application requirements of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). These include views from the top and bottom, front and rear, and right and left sides.

If you omit any view, include specific details as to why it is not included. Left and right sides might be mirror images of one another. In this case, it's OK to provide one view. In the statement, make sure to explain that the opposite side is a mirror image.

It's also crucial to include all elements of your design. Once you receive a design patent, you can't make changes to the overall design. You would have to file for a new patent.

In contrast to a utility patent application, a design patent application contains very little writing. The drawings serve to make claims and illustrate the actual design, so they are very critical in the process. You will include a brief description of the item for which the design is used, but the only other text will list the figure numbers and views of your drawings. Because the design patent drawings are the sole basis for approval or rejection of your application, it's crucial to follow the requirements exactly when submitting yours.

In one example, P&G received a design patent for a unique mouthwash bottle. In its original request, P&G included images that showed an inverted and irregular pentagon shape at the front of the bottle. However, the actual bottle has more of a trapezoidal shape in that area. P&G did not receive a design patent for the bottle shape that it actually produced.

Reasons to Consider Using Design Patent Drawings

Design patent drawings are required as part of your application for a design patent. Without the necessary drawings, your application will be returned without review.

Deadline

You must submit all required design patent drawings with your application to USPTO. The deadline for filing a patent design application is within 12 months of public introduction. The 12-month period applies after you've shown your object of manufacture with a unique and ornamental design in any public forum. This includes images published in a publication.

What Could Happen When You Don't Use Design Patent Drawings?

If you don't submit any design patent drawings, your application will not go through. Submitting an application without drawings is a waste of time and money for everyone involved.

Some inventors include design patent drawings but don't follow the required format. Doing so will result in a delay because the reviewer will have to request correct images. It could also result in a denial of your application.

When you're preparing a design patent application, you can either create the design patent drawings yourself or hire a professional draftsperson. Creating them yourself will save money, but requires you to fully understand the strict requirements. Review the USPTO application guide to make sure you know which views are necessary, how to use shading, dots, and lines to reflect various angles and aspects, and how to label the drawings.

Creating your own patent drawings also comes with benefits, such as:

  • More accurate rendering of your design, since you understand the concept more fully
  • Self-satisfaction for completing the entire application process yourself
  • The ability to create additional drawings and images for collateral and other promotional products
  • Not having to go back and forth for changes with an outside person who doesn't really understand your design

If you hire a professional draftsperson to create your drawings, the cost is typically around $75-$150 per sheet. Most applications include at least two sheets of drawings, and more complex designs often have additional sheets. You won't have to spend as much time on your application, and you can feel confident that the drawings will meet USPTO requirements, helping to prevent delays in processing your application.

Common Mistakes

  • Failing to include the right views. USPTO requires six specific views. If you don't include those six views, you must clearly state why in the description. Additional views, including 3-D, segmented, exploded, or sectional, are helpful but not required.
  • Including photos instead of drawings. It might seem more logical to take a photo of the prototype, but USPTO has strict requirements and only allows photos in certain cases. Review those to see whether your design applies.
  • Not including shading. The two main types of shading help your design come alive. Without it, the design is just a two-dimensional picture that isn't very clear to your reviewer. Make sure to use the two acceptable styles of shading to clearly depict your design.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I submit photographs for design patent drawings?

In most cases, you must submit drawn images in the standard style, but some circumstances allow for photographs. Black and white photos are allowed if they are the only practical way to illustrate the design. Examples include blots, cell cultures, cross-sections, plants, and other very technical items.  

Color photographs are only allowed after you've filed a petition to explain why these are necessary. After you receive approval on the request, you can include three sets of color photos. You must also include a copy in black and white along with required language in the description.

The required language is: "The file of this patent includes at least one drawing executed in color. Copies of this patent with color drawings will be provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee."

  • Who should create the design patent drawings?

If you have drawing skills or a firm understanding of computer graphics, you can create your own drawings. If not, rely on someone skilled in patent design drafting. You'll need to provide a prototype or photos of the item that clearly show the unique ornamental design. When working with an outside vendor, make sure to state exactly what views you want. The drafter should include a figure number on each to set them apart. These figure numbers are abbreviated as Fig. 1, Fig. 2, etc.

  • Can I provide informal design patent drawings?

USPTO does allow informal drawings, including photos and rough sketches, but this will delay your application. Reviewers will not look at your case until you send formal patent drawings. Some designers need to get their applications into USPTO to establish a filing date but haven't completed the formal drawings. In most cases, it's best to submit the application with formal drawings to avoid delays.

With clear and accurate design patent drawings, you can obtain a design patent on your unique ornamental design. You must follow the strict guidelines set by USPTO to avoid issues with your application. Design patents are becoming more widely accepted. In the past five years, the number of design patent cases that favored the patent holder jumped from 30 percent to 50 percent. Major manufacturers use design patents on a daily basis to protect their unique designs.

If you need help with design patent drawings, you can post your question or concern on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.