Design patent

A design patent protects a two- or three-dimensional aspect of a product. It thus provides protection for a product design. Thus, design of three-dimensional objects such as furniture, cars, or toys, and two-dimensional aspects such as cloth, wallpaper, logos, graphic representations, graphic desktops, and icons can be protected.

The registered design patent gives the owner the exclusive right to use the design and to prohibit its use by others.

A condition for design patent protection is that the design must be new and that it has characteristic features. A design is new if no identical design has been disclosed prior to the application date. A design has characteristic features if it gives a user an overall impression that differs from an overall impression that one gets from another design disclosed prior to the application date.

The German Patent and Trademark Office only examines a design patent with regard to formal conditions. The factual protection conditions, i.e. novelty and characteristic features are not examined by the Office. However, rights resulting from the design patent can only be claimed if the factual protection conditions are also provided. The applicant must find this out on his own, (for instance through a study).

The design patent protection according to German law begins with the registration of the design into the design patent register. It lasts for 25 years after the application date.

In addition to a design patent application in Germany, it is also possible to apply for an EU-wide or an international registration.

In the EU a non-registered design that has been made available to the public can also have an EU-wide protection. The duration of protection of a non-registered design is 3 years starting with the date on which it has been made available to the public in the EU provided it wasn't available to the public outside the EU prior to that date.