What Type of Patent Do I Need for My Products?

In order for your patent protection to be effective, it must be the correct type of patent for the product. In our recent blog, we mentioned the case of ABPA v. Ford (2018), in which the Automotive Body Parts Association brought a case against Ford on the basis that headlamps are functional items, and therefore not applicable to a design patent. While Ford’s patent was upheld, and the patent remains, it’s a high-profile example of the potential legal liability brought on by a patent that may not apply to the product it covers.

Design Patents

Design patents offer protection for products that have a unique design, not necessarily intended for functionality. The design for the front grille of a vehicle, for example, does not have a specific functional effect on the vehicle. As long as air can effectively pass through it to the radiator, it serves its intended purpose and so has largely become decorative in modern cars. While the shape and design of the grille may have some effect on the airflow reaching the radiator, it is primarily intended as an aesthetic piece for the car, and therefore falls under a design patent. 

Utility Patents

These patents serve to protect parts that are functional and serve some sort of operation in the vehicle. A door latch, for example, serves no ornamental or aesthetic purpose to the car and exists only as a mechanism to hold the doors closed. The specifics of how the latch functions, its dimensions, and other technical aspects of the mechanism are laid out in the patent in order to provide the necessary intellectual protection.

Provisional Patents

You’ve likely seen “Patent pending” on products before, and in that case, the item was covered by a provisional patent. This allows a level of protection over the product while working on the full patent, allowing for up to one year to file the official patent. It’s important to file for the patent within that year, otherwise, you risk losing the original patent date and leaving your product open to patent thieves.

What if I File an Incorrect Patent?

If the wrong type of patent is filed, the United States Patent and Trademark Office offers a patent reissue application, allowing you to correct the patent and fix any issues. This can also be used to re-examine ambiguous areas of your existing patents and clarify any specifications necessary to ensure your product is fully protected. To ensure that your patents are effective from the start, we always recommend working with a qualified intellectual property attorney. We’re available to help establish your patents and guide you through the process of protecting your business’s most valuable assets. To get started, call Aftermarket Law today at (720) 221-4545, or contact us on our website.


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