Submitting Designs

I have a few questions about freelance furniture design and starting your own line.

It all seems incredibly daunting and impossible, but I do believe that I have a unique vision and philosophy that I can share with a large number of people, (willing to say mass-market). You can check out my coroflot if you’re curious…

My questions pertain specifically to the legal and business sides of things.

On design patents: Is it worth it? Say I have a design that I want to submit to a manufacturer, is it common that they might steal a design if it’s not patented? I’m speaking in terms of established boutique manufacturers that might produce 500 a year.

On manufacturers: How much development do they typically require? Is a finished hand-made prototype enough or do they only accept production models?

On payback: In the realm of high-end furniture boutiques (Matter, Council, Propellor) —I would also like to hear as many other options as possible— is there a decent cut? I know art galleries will often times take 50% or more, but I haven’t heard any numbers regarding furniture shops. Does anyone know common numbers?

And to those with experience here, I would love it if you could let me know if I could PM you to pick your brain. I’m young and energized with a desire to create unique and timeless pieces, and I really would love for this to work out. (I haven’t quit my job yet, but I am redesigning my portfolio and website right behind this browser window…)

Thanks for any answers you might provide. Let me know if you would like any clarification and I’ll reply quickly.


With regard to “design patents” and “worth”, no, in my opinion, they’re not worth much. A “design” patent covers the appearance of a particular item; change it, even minutely, and it is no longer covered by the patent. e.g., if your office chair design uses a pedestal base with five legs and some one copies it exactly, with the exception that their base has six legs, they have no infringed on your “design”.

A “utility patent” on other hand, patents function; a windshield arm mechanism, the recliner mechanism in a La-Z-Boy chair, the mounting system for a camera lens, etc. The requirements to obtain a utility patent are more stringent than for a design patent.

In the end, any patent is only worth the money you have to persecute (I intended to use persecute, instead of prosecute) because it is the patent holders responsibility to actively protect, warn, and attempt to stop anyone who infringes upon their property (the patent). The court has nothing to do with protecting you, until you legally go after (prosecute) the offending party, which you probably know means $$$.

Lots of books on patent stuff. Check out Nolo Press.

As the previous poster mentioned, the patents aren’t worth anything unless you have the money to go after the people that violate them so unless your loaded, probably no. Even though, if your design is good then it will get ripped of no matter what.

Manufacturers should be able to work with whatever you have but an engineering drawing is going to most likely be all they need. If you’re working with an overseas manufacturer are you going to mail them a hand-made prototype? Most likely not so a technical drawing should be all you need.

In my opinion, if you are going to go through the trouble of manufacturing your own furniture then you should create your own store to sell it. Anytime you bring in middle men you lost a lot of profit. I personally don’t have experience with furniture like that but I’m sure it’s just like any other product - try to sell it on your own site/store and invest a lot in marketing.

Awesome replies guys. You reaffirmed a lot of thoughts of my own. Hopefully I can get something reviewable soon. :wink: