Patent vs Design: What’s the Difference?

Both patent and design are rights that could be beneficial for protecting your inventive ideas and products. This article will outline the difference between patent vs design and how they compliment each other.

Table of Contents

What is a Patent?

A patent is simply a registered and exclusive right over some new and innovative invention you have created. It is quite a common route to take in order to protect a new invention. An invention could be anything from a new device, substance, method or process of doing something. A patent right will give you, the patent holder, the exclusive commercial rights to your invention. Gaining the commercial rights to your invention will allow you to use and exploit the invention as you wish, for the duration of the patent period granted.

There are difference types of patents to fit different needs and protection periods. For further information see ‘What is a Patent?‘.

What is a Design?

A design protects the visual appearance of a product. The visual appearance must be distinctive and will take into account many aspects such as shape, configuration, any pattens or ornamentation and its colour. As design rights protect the appearance of a product, the product in question must be:

  • A physical and tangible product, not an idea or concept,
  • Manufactured or handmade,
  • Produced on a commercial scale.

To further explore the benefits of registering a design and understand the process behind design rights, see ‘What is the Designs Act?‘.

As design rights only protect the physical appearance of a product or item, it does not protect things such as brand name and logo. If you are seeking to protect your brand name or logo design you will need to apply for a trademark. See ‘Registered Trademark vs Registered Design: What’s Different?‘, to explore the difference between trademarks and design rights.

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Patent vs Design: What’s the difference?

Although both patents and design rights are both rights offering protection, they work to protect very different aspects of a new invention. Outlined below are the differences between patent vs design.

Difference forms of protection:

There is a large difference in what a patent will protect and what design rights will protect. Patent rights protect the function, method or the workings of a thing. Design protects the appearance of a thing. In other words, patents protect ideas and concepts, whereas registered designs protect the look of a certain product or item. Interestingly, you can register for patent and design protection for one product. Thus, patent and design can offer protection for different features of the same product.

Difference in registration process:

The steps taken to actually register your patent to design can also differ greatly. The requirements for patent registration can be as demanding. Unfortunately, due to the lengthy process involved in registering a patent, the registration period for patent registration can also be significantly longer (at times, years) than that for design registration (usually months).

Further details regarding registration of both patents and design rights can be found at IP Australia.

Difference in registration cost:

The cost of registering a design is generally a lot lower than the cost of registering a patent. A large reason for the application cost difference is that the patent application is quite demanding. As patent applications involve significant preparing and detailed specifications to be provided, its application can be lengthy and therefore more expensive than a design application. Additionally, in order to maintain your patents enforceability, annual renewal fees must be paid. Whereas, design rights renewal fee only require a one time renewal fee payment, paid 5 years after the date the design application was filed.

Difference in protection period:

The period of protection offered by both patent and design registered is not infinite. Generally speaking, as design rights have a lower registration cost than patent registration, the period of protection afforded to design rights is significantly shorter than the period afforded to registered a patent.

After the date an application to register a design right is filed, the maximum protection period available is 10 years. Whereas, the maximum period of protection afforded to a registered patent is 20 years. Further, if the patent being registered is a ‘pharmaceutical substance’ the maximum period of protection will be 25 years.

Final Thoughts

If you have created some product or item that is new, distinctive and innovative, you should always considering protecting your hard work. Whether you are considering registering a patent or a design right, it’s always important to speak to an IP expert to ensure all your protection needs are being meet. Both patents and design rights protect different forms of intellectual property and have different costs, processes, protection periods associated with them.

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