How to get a design patent?

How do you go about getting a design patent? I’ve heard you have to get a patent attorney, etc. and that it is expensive (about $5000 bucks).

I’ve got an idea for a product and to protect it I want to patent it before showing it to anyone.

Anyone have any experience here?


Patents are more complicated than ya think.
Start by finding a friendly lawyer to create a non disclosure agreement for you. Then go and see about flogging it. In industrial design it’s hard some times to make a call between intellectual property and a patentable item. Have you done a patent search?

a patent lawyer is needed to obtain your rights, some may be cavaliering and say you can do yourself…but I wouldn’t try it.

I would suggest creating a documented project book and certify mail it to yourself. This will protect your intellectual rights for your product/invention.

Patents are very tricky and they need to be written accurate using legal grammer. In addition, a patent is only as strong as your ability to enforce it.

Example, corporation A uses your patent without authorization. You write a letter to them explaining that they are in violation, they reply that they refuse to discontinue. At this point your forced into a legal battle, expect to pay about $60K-100K in legal fees…remember corporation A probably has their own in-house legal team. Sucks, huh.

Your better off getting the intellectual rights and then selling those rights to a corporation and allow them to patent it under their name.

I haven’t done a patent search yet, where/how do I do that?

I like the idea of the intellectual property thing. I’ve heard about something like that before. I’ve heard it called a “poor man’s patent”.

Is there more to it than just cerified mail? Someone told me to get it notorized and stuff.

both would work, if you notorize it may cost a bit more and take more time…but if you certify mail it just make sure that you keep it sealed! also, if possible, mail it to the address where you lived when the idea developed…again, most important, don’t unseal it until your legal representation tells you to.

design patents dont protect ideas. utility patents protect ideas. provisional patent is cheap easy option but limited. certified mail documents but doesnt really protect. NDA wont protect an idea. they can say they already had the idea. and most companies do have ideas buried in sketch files. since you dont know process get an attorney. $5k is nothing for a good idea. trustworthy companies only talk if you have a patent.

search the web. easiest site to find is

well…one could say with how today’s judicial system works…that no patent protects your idea, they just are written proof that your the legal owner.

Lawyers protect ideas…if there is ever a dispute, the only party who makes it out clean are the lawyers.


Good point Big Red!

So, as we are all cynics and can expect the worst from lawyers and even the most trustworthy companies, what is the most cost effective way of protecting an idea in order to market it?

true. but most companies wont even talk if no patent. why? you show up with idea. they buy it. invest time and money. what happens if its already patented? you and them are screwed. patent doesnt protect against copycats. protects company investment.

Get a non-disclosure agreement and go exploit your own personal contacts. Failing that, you’re going to have to take a risk.

“So, as we are all cynics and can expect the worst from lawyers and even the most trustworthy companies, what is the most cost effective way of protecting an idea in order to market it?”

share royalties with a lawyer.

Thanks for all the input! I just want to cover my ass before I start showing the idea.

Does anyone have any personal success stories on this?

“Get a non-disclosure agreement and go exploit your own personal contacts.”

just did an NDA with another designer needing Pro/E. good contacts and trust are valuable. not sure if they have patent. probably.

“Does anyone have any personal success stories on this?”

in progress. royalty lawyer is slow. we’ll see.

ykh–keep us posted on the royalty lawyer progress.

I am working on a personal project and just saw the patent attorney. The process to obtain a patent is pretty much three steps.

  1. Do a patent search to see if you are infringing on someone elses current patent or an expired patent. An expired (20 years) patent is public domain and you can’t re-patent an idea - it free for everyone. Cost for this is $500-$1,000 depending on how “simple” the product is.

  2. Write the patent. Done by an attorney charging $150-$200 per hour. They do the legaleze but to lower costs, some will let you do the drawings. This will run you $4,000 - $6,000, again depending on how complicated the product is.

  3. Submit the patent to the USTPO. You can do an interim submission that will protect you for a year for $40 (you can do a full submission by the end of that year for the full 20 years of protection.) Full submission is around $400.

The patent office can take up to a year to approve or reject the application.

Patent lawyers tend to specialize, i.e. biomedical, packaging, chemistry, etc. Pick one who knows your industry.

Defending a patent is a whole different animal, infringers can be held to three times damages but you have to do the math if you want to take the risk. The firm who writes your patent should have litigation lawyers and will advise how much it will cost you vs. how much you could get.

From experience I’d have to agree with Guy Kawasaki in Forbes:

I think my business idea would be successful, but I’m concerned with having it stolen if I approach potential investors. How do I best protect my business ideas?

Let me get this straight: Your idea is so revolutionary that no one has thought of it, and if you simply tell some investors about it, they’re going to rip you off and do it themselves? Dream on. Investors are looking for teams to implement ideas, not ideas that need teams.

As a rule of thumb, if you have a good idea, five other companies are doing the same thing. If you have a great idea, ten other companies are doing the same thing. The ultimate protection of an idea is good implementation. No legal document, patent, or paranoia can do it. Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.

What kind of patent are you going for? A “Design Patent” or a Utility Patent"?

I currently am the holder of eight utility patents. I’ve litigated the merits of a patent twice. Here’s what I’ve know regarding patents:

Patents take anywhere from 18 months to 2-1/2 years to get issued once the patent application is applied for, assuming you have a novel idea that has no patent applied for prior art. While the application is being examined, the product must display a “patent pending” label when sold or shown in public. Failure to do so can result in voiding a patent.

Prior art may exist that the patent office is not aware of that can also void a patents’ enforcement. You must be sure you really own a novel idea.

Cost of a patent is dependant on how many claims are asked, how complex the design is, and what are the patenteable features. Generally, a patent with about ten claims and a fairly clear cut concept run from $3500-$5000.

Design patents cover merely the aesthetic “look” of the product, while utiliy patents cover the execution of the function of the product.

To design around a patent is also fairly easy, unless the execution of the function is really the only way the product will work. All you have to do is design a competitive product such that one or more of the conditions of each claim are missing.

Defending a patent is costly. The first time, the cost was 18 months litigation and over $250,000. We prevailed. The second one was almost three years litigation, cost almost $2 million and we lost based on a definition of terms. This “definition” issue cost us $8 million.

Also, patents issued in the US are not enforcable if someone knocks you off and sells the product overseas. Its jurisdiction is only in the USA. You must apply for foreign patents and be willing to litigate in a foreign country if infringement happens.

Overall, patents are good if your concept is really sound and the alternatives are cumbersome and not easily designed around. You must have money to defend them. Pretty much anything can be designed around as not to infringe.

Its really better to just have the best design and be competitive from that standpoint instead of trying to patent useless, silly things.

For what its worth.

good points above. unless you got tons of $$$ a patent isnt much protection. wouldnt even bother except its like going to a nice club. no tie. no entry. my ideas will be ripped off. wont be first time. but first to market is worth something. thats where its at imo.

I’m debating the same issue right now. I’m a senior in my final semester right now, and I’ve been throwing around the idea of trying to market one of my projects I designed. In all likelyhood I’m just hoping to sell it to someone else. I wouldn’t have the money or resources to defend it if it ever did get ripped off. I’m mostly concerned right now because it is also something I would like to show in my portfolio. Obviously, if I do that I can’t claim anything legally if it does get ripped off. With a well written NDA and sending it to myself would I at least slow them down?