IP: The importance of design patents

An overlooked asset takes center stage in the Apple/Samsung patent battle

The recent and historic Apple iPhone lawsuit against Samsung has thrown the technological spotlight onto intellectual property. This case not only highlights the competitive tension between Apple,Samsung and the entire mobile device industry, but it also forces recognition of a much less common form of IP, known as the “design patent.”

Design patents are often overlooked despite the fact that they have been available to innovators for more than 150 years. These types of patents focus on the appearance of an object, rather than the way it works. The designs are created with aesthetic purposes in mind, and they specifically protect an object’s shape, surface treatment and color, or any combination of the three. Design patents are an invaluable company asset for a wide variety of industries since they protect iconic designs ranging from Apple’s iPhone graphics to Aviator Ray-Ban sunglasses to the original glass Coca-Cola bottle.

Contributing Author

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Greg Vogler

Greg Vogler is one of the co-founders of McAndrews, Held & Malloy. He focuses on patent, trade secret and trademark litigation, as well as...

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