While hardware patents are considered a subset of utility patents, they really cover any physical component of a system, such as unique aspects of a circuit board, an integrated circuit like a chip, or other electronics. But let’s not forget hardware design patents. Today, hardware companies are increasingly investing in design teams that create unique and eye-catching products—and protecting those designs helps preserve the brand. It’s important to note that a hardware design patent offers more comprehensive protection than a standard copyright and trademark could provide.

Why Do Hardware Design Patents Matter?

Hardware companies are increasingly investing in design teams because they should. At the end of the day, design patents are protecting their bottom line. Companies need to protect their current product designs and plan for alternate proposed designs, minor design alterations, or an overhaul of a design for products in the pipeline. The following should be reviewed to truly understand the importance of a hardware design patent:

  • Patentability: In order to be patentable, a design has to meet the subject-matter requirements for a patent, such as the novelty and non-obviousness requirements. The design does not have to have usefulness because a design is ornamental and not functional. 
  • Infringement: In order for you or someone to claim infringement, you must prove that an ordinary observer wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between your patented object’s design and an accused object’s design when they are compared side by side. 
  • Damages: What a patent owner can be awarded from an infringement depends entirely on what is being disputed. The question to ask is “what are the total profits the infringing party earned from the article of manufacture (AOM)?” It will be much easier to prove to a jury an infringer’s total profits from the sale of a product if the AOM is a finished product and not just one individual component of a product (and the patent owner can claim higher damages). 

While it’s important to keep the considerations above in mind, you’ll also need to decide if you need a hardware design patent, a hardware utility patent, or both. 

Hardware Design Patent vs. Utility Patent

There are a variety of differences between a hardware design patent and a hardware utility patent. The most important distinction is that the design patent protects how the innovation looks while the utility patent protects how it works. Essentially:

  • You’ll want a design patent if you’re concerned about competitors copying the appearance of your invention.
  • You’ll want a utility patent if you’re protecting your invention’s functional features.

For some concepts, it may be best to file for both a design and utility patent. This is where consulting with a patent attorney can help. To get you started, we have outlined just a few differences between the two categories as they pertain to the hardware and tools industries.

So, how do you know which patent is the right for your innovation? Just ask yourself if you are looking to protect the functionality or the appearance of your idea. Patents aren’t one-size-fits-all, and neither are the hardware or tools you are developing. At Bold Patents, we help you through every step of the patent application process so that you can focus on what matters most: turning your idea into a protected reality. Contact us today! 800-849-1913

Hardware Design Patents

Bold Patents has worked with many inventors to successfully obtain hardware design patents. Here are just a few of them: