Strict USPTO Rules for Design Drawings

Strict standards apply to US design patent drawings. Generally, the figures for a design patent application should be shown in black-and-white line drawings with proper surface shading and the appropriate use of any broken lines to show subject matter that does not form a part of the claimed design. The USPTO provides a helpful guide on design patent applications.

Drawing Format

Design patent figures should be illustrated in black-and-white line drawings. Special attention should be given to any surface shading to show the character and contour of all surfaces of any three-dimensional aspects of the design. Broken lines should be used to depict portions that form no part of the claimed design. Black-and-white photographs may be filed in lieu of ink drawings if the photographs are the only practicable medium for illustrating the claimed invention [37 CFR  §1.84(b)(1)].

Color Drawings or Color Photos

If an applicant seeks to file color drawings or color photographs in lieu of black-and-white drawings in a utility application, a petition should be filed under 37 CFR  §1.84(a)(2) explaining why the color drawings or photographs are necessary. The petition must include the petition fee [37 CFR § 1.17(h)], three sets of color drawings or photographs, and the specification must contain the following language:

“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.”

Required Views

The generally required views include front, rear, right side, left side, top and bottom. While not required, perspective views are recommended since they can be so helpful in showing the appearance, depth and shape of three-dimensional designs.

Unnecessary Views

Views that are merely duplicates or mirror images of other views of the design may be omitted 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 (i.e., “the right side elevational view is a mirror image of the left side”). If the bottom is flat and includes no ornamentation, that view may be omitted if the figure descriptions include a statement explaining the view (e.g., “the bottom is flat an unornamented”). “Unornamented” should not be used to describe visible surfaces that clearly are not flat.

Surface Shading

US patent laws require that design drawings include appropriate surface shading that clearly shows the character and contour of all surfaces of any three-dimensional aspects of the design. Surface shading is also necessary to distinguish between open space and solid areas. The lack of appropriate surface shading may result in a non-enabling rejection under 35 USC § 112(a) [first paragraph], which may be difficult to correct since the addition of surface shading after the initial filing may be considered new matter [see 35 USC § 132(a)].

Design Disclaimers

Written disclaimer statements are not permitted in issued design patents, but are temporarily allowed in a pending design application to enable future amendments. Therefore, the most effective way to avoid claiming a particular design feature or element is to show such feature in broken or dashed lines.

Broken or dashed lines

Sometimes it’s helpful to show the context of a design without actually claiming the surrounding environment. Broken or dashed lines may be used in such circumstances to indicate that whatever is shown as such forms no part of the claimed design. Some foreign countries, such as China, do not allow for broken lines in design patent applications. So, keep in mind that whatever is shown dashed in a US design application may ultimately have to be shown as solid in a counterpart foreign design application.

Can photographs be combined with ink drawings?

No, photos cannot be combined with black-and-white line drawings in one design application [see MPEP 1503.02]. If photographs are submitted instead of ink drawings, the photos should not show any environmental structure.

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Vic Lin

Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Lead Partner at Innovation Capital Law Group
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