Can a design patent cover a type of material?
We all know that designs patents cover the ornamental appearance of a product or idea. Functionality is protected by utility patents. But what if the unique appearance of your product comes from its material? Can a design patent show a specific material, substance or composition of matter? In other words, can you use a design patent to cover what your product is made of?
Suppose your design is composed of silicone, glass, wood or any other unconventional materials compared to that of existing products. And that new material is what gives your product a unique look. Let’s see how you can carefully craft a design patent application to capture specific types of materials.
Can the design patent title describe what the product is made of?
You may be able to include the specific material in your design patent title. For example, add “WOODEN” or “RUBBER” to the title to describe the product’s material.
Be careful though. Do you really want to limit your design patent to a specific type of material? What if competitors copy your design using a different material? You do not want to unnecessarily limit the scope of coverage by creating opportunities for competitors to avoid your patent.
What if only certain components of product are made of a specific material? Your design patent title can specify those parts and their composition. For instance, you can title your design patent application as “[product] WITH GLASS [components]” or simply “GLASS [components]” if you are not claiming the overall product.
Can design patent drawings show that your product is transparent or made of glass?
Design patent drawings can show that the product is made of glass or some type of transparent material. Teamwork is key to a smart IP filing strategy. Make sure to inform your patent attorney that certain materials create the unique appearance of your design. That way, proper instructions can be given to the illustrator to draft the design patent drawings a certain way. An experienced patent attorney working in combination with a skilled illustrator can help produce design patent drawings that show certain materials where possible.
Here are examples of design patent drawings showing transparent materials.
What are ways to show different materials in design drawings?
You can use surface lines and cross-sectional views to indicate specific types of materials in design patent drawings. The USPTO has also prescribed the following symbols or draftsmen to indicate specific materials:
What if you want to protect only a part of the product?
Is a certain part of the product made of a visually unique substance? If so, you can take a few approaches. First, ask about the strategic use of broken lines to disclaim the remainder of the product that you want to exclude. Second, the component you wish to patent can be drawn carefully to indicate the material, if possible. Third, you can use the title to identify the product part along with its composition.