Strict USPTO Rules for Design Patent Drawings

The USPTO has strict standards for US design patent drawings. The strict rules include certain required views as well as how those views must be shown. In most cases, figures for a design patent application should be drawn in black-and-white line drawings. Design patent drawings should include proper surface shading that might not be required in utility patent drawings. Broken lines may be used to show subject matter that does not form a part of the claimed design. As a helpful resource, the USPTO provides this guide on design patent applications.

What is the format of US design patent drawings?

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. In special circumstances, 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)].

Can US design patent figures comprise color drawings or color photos?

A petition must be filed if an applicant seeks to file color drawings or color photographs in lieu of black-and-white drawings. The petition filed under 37 CFR  §1.84(a)(2) should explain why 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.”

What are the required design patent views?

Design patent drawings must show the following required views:

  • front;
  • rear;
  • right side;
  • left side;
  • top; and
  • bottom.

The above required views must be shown head-on and not from an angle. Views shown from an angle, however slight, are called “perspective views” which may be included, but are not mandatory. Though perspective views are optional, I generally prefer including them since they can be quite helpful in showing the depth and shape of any three-dimensional features.

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 single view of one side may be provided along with a statement in the drawing description specifying 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 and unornamented”). “Unornamented” should not be used to describe visible surfaces that clearly are not flat.

Surface shading in design patent drawings

If there is one requirement of US design patent drawings that makes the USPTO different from foreign patent offices, surface shading has to be on the top of list. 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)]. This is a key reason why we discourage inventors from using their own drawings which would likely result in objections by the examiner.

Below is an example of straight-line surface shading to indicate a flat surface:

design patent drawing with surface shading
https://www.uspto.gov/patents/basics/types-patent-applications/design-patent-application-guide

When the surface is curved or not flat, stippling should be used. Here’s an example of a design patent drawing with a combination of surface shading for flat surfaces and stippling for curved surfaces:

design patent drawing with combination of stippling and surface shading
https://www.uspto.gov/patents/basics/types-patent-applications/design-patent-application-guide

What are 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.

How to use 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 do not allow for broken lines in design patent applications. China is one of those countries. So keep in mind that whatever is shown dashed in a US design patent 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.

Need to file a US design patent application with proper drawings?

Line drawings prepared by non-patent illustrators or foreign firms might not work for US patent filings. Feel free to reach out to US design patent attorney Vic Lin at vlin@icaplaw.com or call (949) 223-9623 to see how we can help you file a proper design patent application.

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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