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Can a design patent help your business succeed?

Is a design patent very valuable? I accidentally answered this in wondering why the Stanley Quencher was so popular at Christmas and where the copycats were? The revolutionary thermos was invented by Mr Stanley in 1913, and so has expired long ago. The current version is just protected by the design right USD0996915. Interestingly Stanley (now Pacific Market International) is very keen on IP in general, with a whopping and ominous 666 patent rights.

Design patents define what is claimed and unclaimed by subtle details in the lines.

Design patents and design rights protect looks

With these IP rights you are protecting how something looks. You cannot cover an idea, method of construction, composition, or physical properties outside of appearance, or function. Thus the value of them varies a lot, especially with industry. When the Stanley Quencher went viral, the value of its design protection went into the $millions.


Registered Industrial Designs protect the unique appearance of products — shape, configuration, ornamentation, or any combination of these features. This IP right is common in consumer goods and garment trade. However, it is applicable elsewhere including in the automotive and software industries.

In Canada, registration lasts for up to 15 years from the filing date provided you pay the one maintenance fee. The design must be novel in a limited sense, meaning the creator can file within one year of disclosure.

US design patents

In the U.S. design rights are called design patents lasting 15 years. There is no maintenance fee. The design must be novel but is subject to a one-year grace period. These IP rights are called patents because of a quirk in the wording of the U.S. constitution. A U.S. design patent is very different compared to a U.S. utility patent.

Hague System and Elsewhere

In other places these IP rights are registered industrial designs or industrial designs. There is a requirement of absolute novelty. The duration is 15 years. Using the Hague system one can file a single application that covers many countries, which reduces your agent fees and provides central processing of your application. You need to designate specific countries to which your application will apply and each country may charge an additional fee for examination.


Design rights in overview:

  • Subject matter: Aesthetic creations
  • Duration: About 15 years
  • Agent fees: Low — mostly cost of drawings
  • Official fees: Low to medium — low in Canada
  • Maintenance fees: None to low — none in the US
  • Mixes with copyright, patent, trademark, and more.
  • Don’t mix with trade secrets

If you have a questions about design protection please contact us.

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