Design Patent vs. Utility Patent Analogy

We get asked all the time what the difference between a design and utility patent is. Instead of reading some boring definition from a patent attorney, we’ll give you an anology to help you understand the difference.

Think of a toaster. The electric coils that heats up is how it toasts things. That is the utility, or the functionality that is consistent no matter what the toaster looks like. According to Wikipedia, George Schneider was the first person to file for an American patent for an electric toaster.  Later on, different functions were patented, like adding a timer and the pop-up feature. None of these were dependant on how the toaster looks. So any toaster that was sold before these patents expired should have been approved by the inventor first, regardless of what the toaster looked like on the outside.

 A design patent, on the other hand, completely depends on what the product looks like rather than how it works. The Hello Kitty toaster on the left could have a design patent issued, but not a utility patent since there is nothing unique about how it toasts the bread. What makes it unique is how it looks.

It’s harder to get licensing deals for inventions with a design patent than a utility patent usually. That is why we strongly encourage people to have a patent attorney research and review similar patents before spending any money on product development if their goal is to license their invention. The attorneys that do our patent search give great feedback and suggestions of things you can add or change to your idea to increase your chances of being issued a utility patent instead of just a design patent.

Call us at 1-877-993-6426 or email today to get your patent search started!