One of the things that the Apple – Samsung spat has brought up is the patentability of design concepts and most people may not be aware that there is a completely different class of patents explicitly for this. A US design patent covers the ornamental design for an object having practical utility. An object with a design that is substantially similar to the design claimed in a design patent cannot be made, used, copied or imported into the United States. The copy does not have to be exact for the patent to be infringed. It only has to be substantially similar. These patents are denoted by having a “D” in front of the number. This is different from a copyright which is for something that has no functional aspect to it
The most common types of things patented in this way are items of jewelry but it also covers things such as the design of the original coke bottle.
Here is one such design patent that I find quite amusing. It is for a jet powered surfboard. What makes it so amusing is that the entire description is the drawings, the only claim is “The ornamental design for a jet powered surfboard, as shown.” So the person patenting this is not trying to define if this is practical or even achievable, just that if anyone works out how to actually build this – it had better not look like this unless they pay the patent holder a royalty. This contrasts with a regular patent where the best method of implementing has to be disclosed.
So what do you think? Should these design patents be allowed?
Brian Bailey – keeping you covered
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