How Long Does It Take to Get a Design Patent?

You may be wondering, “How long does it take to get a design patent?” A typical design patent will take between one and three years for approval. This may depend on whether the design is issued instantly, whether there is a dispute with the USPTO, or if modification for formal issues is required.

What Is a Design Patent?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office grants patents for legal rights to a specific design. Once granted, a design patent can provide you with exclusive rights to sell and manufactures a specific design or "article of manufacture."

When Is a Design Patent Most Useful?

If you think that the design or appearance of your product is unique, and has never been created by others before, a design patent can be extremely useful to protect the design of your product, and to prevent other competitors from mimicking that design in their own products.

How Do Design Patents and Trademarks Differ?

When something has a trademark, it has markings that indicate who it is that makes or sells the product. The purpose of a design patent, on the other hand, is not to identify the company that makes a product but is instead to protect the elements of the design. A design patent must be a new design that has never been used before. You can, however, trademark a design that is not necessarily new, but is linked with your product or services in the eyes of your customer.

How Do Design and Utility Patents Differ?

Utility patents typically differ from design patents in that they are much wider in scope. A utility patent can be used to protect almost any idea as long as it is new and has not been patented. Some of the common types of items protected with a utility patent include:

  • Methods for performing a task
  • Business methods
  • Machines
  • Chemicals

Since design patents are less broad, they are easier to obtain than a utility patent and can only be used for a new or unique design of a physical object.

What Is the Relationship Between a Design Patent and an Industrial Design?

While the industrial designs of many companies operating in countries outside the U.S. are protected by those countries' legal systems, the U.S. does not have a system that protects industrial designs. In the United States, design patents are used to provide design protection. Because of this, it is not always simple to protect an industrial design that has already been protected in another country in the U.S., unless they are able to obtain a United States design patent.

How Many Designs Does One Application Cover?

Unlike many European companies, the United States only allows one design per patent application. Sometimes, small variations of a design might be allowed on the same patent but this does not occur often.

Can You Base Your Design on a Registered Community Design?

In the event that a design patent application is filed in the U.S. no later than six months after the date of filing for a Registered Community Design, you can have your U.S. design patent claim priority to that Registered Community Design.

Are There Protections for Industrial Designs in the U.S. Under the Hague System?

In December 2012, the United States passed a law allowing the U.S. to begin participating in the Hague System for the protection of industrial design. Under this system, a U.S. applicant can use a single application with the USPTO to protect a design through Europe. This type of application can also include multiple designs.

Those from other countries looking to gain design protection in the U.S. can apply for protection through the World Intellectual Property Organization. These applications can only include one design.

How Long Will the Protection of a Design Patent Last in the U.S.?

U.S. design patents last for 14 years and cannot be renewed. The benefit is that there are no maintenance fees and you will be protected for 14 years from the patent being issued. With the Hague System, new design patents will be good for 15 years.

Requirements for Filing a Design Patent

Applications are required to have seven figures showing the design that you are trying to protect. These figures are:

  • Isometric View
  • Front
  • Back
  • Right Side
  • Left Side
  • Top
  • Bottom

All drawings must be in compliance with the USPTO, so it may be beneficial to have your drawings made using CAD or by a drafter who is familiar with the rules and required formats.

Other requirements include transfers of ownership to the employee's company when applicable, and permission for an attorney to act on your behalf if using a patent attorney.

Should a Design Patent Be Filed in the Name of Inventor or a Company?

When filing a design patent in the U.S., it must be filed in the name of the person who developed the design (the inventor). If the inventor of a design was an employee of a company when the design was created, the patent will have to be filed first under their name, then later assigned to the company through the USPTO office.

How Long Does a Patent Search Take?

This usually takes one to three weeks to finish, depending on the quantity of search outcomes and the workload at the time.

How Long Does It Take to Draft a Patent Application?

If all of the details about your invention are acquired prior to drafting your invention, then a typical timeframe is between two and four weeks to draft the application for your assessment.

The timeframe inside which a law firm might draft a patent application is dependent upon the complexity of the invention, the amount and type of knowledge supplied by the consumer prior to drafting, as well as the variety of adjustments supplied by the consumer after drafting begins.

What Happens After Patent Application Filing?

After submission, the time to patent approval is dependent upon whether or not you start with a provisional or a non-provisional patent application. A common wait time until the USPTO responds with the results of the Patent Examiner's first substantive assessment and examination of the patent application is about 21 months. The typical time to acquire a patent from the patent office is about 32 months or less. Some technical areas may have a longer or shorter wait time as a result of the USPTO's patent requirements, which depend mostly on the invention's area and workload of expertise teams (often called artwork items) at the USPTO.

When filing a provisional patent application, the patent office won't put your provisional patent application in a queue to be examined. This will occur if and when you decide to submit a non-provisional patent application to pursue a patent.

Non-provisional patent applications should be filed within 12 months of the submission date of the provisional application.

What Is Prioritized Examination?

The USPTO has a prioritized examination (also referred to as Track One) for utility and plant patent purposes for a restricted variety of patent applications every 12 months. To be considered for the prioritized examination, the applicant pays a significant fee to the USPTO. The USPTO then sets a goal to provide a final disposition (approval or final rejection) of your patent application within 12 months.

What Is Patent Pending?

When your patent application is pending (after the application is filed, but prior to granting of the patent) you have a patent pending standing. You'll be able to start taking full advantage of your invention after the patent application is filed, as long as the application totally describes and covers all the conditions of your invention that you intend to reveal and use publicly.

First Office Action

Patents are reviewed sequentially, and it typically takes about two years for a patent to be processed. The first response from the USPTO is called an “Office Action.” You'll have to reply to the action, and the USPTO will then have to answer your response. At that point, you'll be able to safely estimate that it'll take no more than three years from the date of your preliminary application submission to obtain your patent.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Patent in Special Cases?

It might take even longer to get your patent if you are submitting an application for a patent in a high traffic discipline, such as a PC software program. If you are required to file a Request for Prioritized Examination or a Continuation Application, your patent could also be pending for 5 to 6 years. There are procedures to apply to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, which will add another 12-month period and further charges, without assurance that you'll win your appeal and obtain your patent.

There is a specific timeline for submitting a patent application. Get help by posting your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel only accepts the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Yale Law and have worked with or on behalf of companies like Menlo Ventures and Google.