When New Jersey residents invent a product, they may have to get both a utility patent and a design patent in order to protect their work. The utility patent protects the actual invention while the design patent protects the way that the invention looks. Getting a design patent may help to prevent competitors from making inferior products that are designed to look like a patented one.
Apple is a company that has registered some of the most well known examples of design patents. Most people who were around in the late 90s can still remember the way that the iMac G3 computers looked because the colorful designs helped to distinguish them from other computers. A design patent may cover the shape of an invention, the configuration of the invention's elements and the invention's surface ornamentation.
An inventor may obtain a design patent that is valid for 14 years after submitting a clear drawing of an invention's appearance. A design patent application is generally short, and the drawing that accompanies a design patent application cannot include any reference characters. In some cases, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will send a notice to an inventor informing them that they are entitled to a design patent and instructing them to pay a design patent issue fee.
Design patents and utility patents may need to be enforced with legal action when competitors infringe on them, as substantial financial losses could be the result. An attorney who has experience in patent law could often be of assistance in seeking remedies to stop the unauthorized use.