What is the design patent application process?

The design patent process is much simpler than that of a utility patent. Costs for obtaining a design patent are significantly lower as well. If you have something that looks different, then a design patent may make sense. The examination process (aka “prosecution”) for a US design patent application comprises three main stages:

  1. initial filing;
  2. Office Actions (if any); and
  3. allowance.

How to file a US design patent application

The initial filing a design patent application with the USPTO is fairly straightforward. The two primary components of a design patent application are:

  1. design patent drawings; and
  2. a written specification.

Other formal documents are also required (e.g., inventor declaration, Information Disclosure Statement, Application Data Sheet, etc.), but the specification and drawings are the two main components of the application that warrant the most attention.

What are design patent drawings?

US design patent drawings must meet strict USPTO rules. Design patent figures typically comprise black-and-white line drawings showing the ornamental appearance of a three-dimensional structure or a two-dimensional graphic or artwork on a product. It’s best to have these drawings drafted by a professional patent illustrator so that the proper views and shading are provided. Filing a patent application properly from the beginning, even if it costs a bit more, will avoid further costs and delays.

Design patent drawings must show the following views: front, rear, left, right, top and bottom. Even though it’s optional, I prefer to include at least one perspective view that shows the design in 3D. This isometric view taken from the right angle can be helpful to show unique features of the design.

As long as the specification contains the proper statements, the figures may omit an unornamental bottom and any views that are identical to or a mirror image of a prior view. Certain views may also be omitted for special products that have no visually appreciable thickness.

US design patents are unique in that the USPTO allows the use of broken lines (dashed lines) to show the environment of a design without claiming the environment. For example, if you seek to patent a component of an overall product or system, you may show the component in solid lines and have the rest of the product drawn in broken lines.

When reviewing a rough draft of design drawings, pay particular attention to any special features that may be missing or requiring edits.

What is the design written specification?

The written specification of a US design patent application should identify the inventors, specify the view of each figure and include a single claim. Any special statements (e.g., broken lines) should also be included. Applicants should pay particular attention to the description of the drawings to make sure that each view is properly identified in the specification (e.g., check if a description mistakenly identifies the “right” side when it should identify the left).

What are the chances of success in applying for a US design patent?

US design patent applications enjoy a high rate of allowance that is over 85% (at the time of this post). The high likelihood of granting a design patent makes the design application process more predictable. With greater certainty comes more precise estimates of the cost of the entire process from start to finish.

In contrast, utility patent applications are highly unpredictable since they incur a much higher rate of Office Action rejections. While it is common to have utility patent applications rejected over the prior art, prior art rejections are quite uncommon in design applications (although they do occur from time to time).

How much does a design patent cost?

The cost of obtaining a design patent typically consists of at least two stages: initial filing and the allowance/issuance.

Initial filing cost of a design patent application

The initial filing cost of a US design patent application consists of three components:

  1. Attorney’s fee;
  2. USPTO fee; and
  3. Illustrator fee, if any.

For a small entity (e.g., company with fewer than 500 employees), the USPTO filing fee is $510 ($110 design basic filing fee + $80 design search fee + $320 design examination fee). Our firm charges a flat rate of $750 per embodiment for the initial filing of a US design patent application. We generally do not recommend including multiple designs/embodiments in a single design application unless the design is a graphical user interface (GUI).

The illustrator fee is the remaining and only variable component of the initial filing cost. Illustrators may charge roughly $270 to $500 for a set of design patent drawings. Certain factors may reduce the illustrator’s fees, such as providing editable drawing files that allow the illustrator to make revisions without having to draft the drawings from scratch. We highly recommend using professional design drawings prepared by illustrators experienced with US design drawing requirements. Drawings not prepared by experienced illustrators tend to lack necessary subtle details, such as surface shading.

Expect that cost of the initial filing of a design patent application will range from $1,550 to $1,800 for a small entity (e.g., company with fewer than 500 employees). Add about $500 more for a large entity.

Cost of a design patent Office Action response

Every once in a while, an examiner may issue an Office Action in a US design patent application. Most design Office Actions relate to the drawings and require certain edits in order to conform to USPTO standards. The cost to respond to such an Office Action will depend upon any illustrator fees to make the required revisions, plus any attorney’s fees to file the response. At our firm, we do not charge for responding to drawing requirements in a design Office Action if our firm was responsible for the initial design drawings.

Though unlikely, it is possible to receive an Office Action rejecting the claimed design on the grounds of prior art. Such substantive Office Actions would require greater cost and effort to prepare an adequate response.

Cost of paying design issue fee

The USPTO issue fee is $370 for a small entity and $740 for a large entity. Our firm charges a single flat rate of $500 for both paying the issue fee and sending the original patent certificate once received.

Start to finish cost of a US design patent application

Assuming the USPTO does not reject your design application on the grounds that it’s too similar to prior designs, then it is possible to estimate the total cost of a US design application from start to finish.

How long does it take to get the examiner’s first review?

As of June 2019, the average amount of time to get a first Office Action in a design application is approximately 13.8 months.  The average total pendency for design applications is approximately 20.5 months.

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Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Lead Partner at Innovation Capital Law Group
We align ourselves with Davids fighting Goliaths. Our registered patent attorneys work as a team to equip startups and founders with solid IP rights that facilitate funding, growth and sales. Email or call us so we can get to work on your IP: (949) 223-9623 | vlin@icaplaw.com