Mastering the Art of Patent Reading: Utility vs Design Patents

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What is a Patent? 

A patent is a legal document that gives an inventor the full right, these rights include the inventor to manufacture, use, and sell his/her invention for a certain number of years. The legal document is issued by the government. Patents can also be used to significantly improve previously invented items. There are two most common types of patents: 

  • Utility Patent
    The utility patent is the most commonly used form of patent. The production of any new or enhanced and useful process, machine, product, or physical component is protected. It includes both the utilization of an invention and its functional aspects. The only person who may use, manufacture, or sell an invention protected by a patent is its owner. 
  • Design Patent
    A design patent protects the distinctive shape or configuration of the product with the help of a legal document. It stops someone from copying or producing a perfect duplicate of your design. The patent may cover the configuration or shape of the item, the article’s surface embellishment, both, or none of these. 

Table of Contents

Difference Between Utility vs Design Patent  

  • A utility patent is one that ensures the inventor has full control over his/her creation. 
  • A design patent is when you develop a new design for a product. 

How To Read A Patent?

While reading a design patent is simple, utility patents are a little bit difficult to understand and read. The claims are sometimes written in a language different from that used in the description, which provides more specific details than those stated in the claims. How do we understand these other parts of a patent? 

So, we will explain the correct and simple way to read a patent. 

Patents have four major components and those should be read according to the below-mentioned order. 

  • Cover Page – Contains Bibliographic information 
  • Specification – The specification is the instruction that shows a person skilled in the trade how to use the invention. It includes the Background and Summary of the Invention and Patent Drawings.  
  • Abstract – The Abstract or Patent Abstract is a paragraph summarizing the invention in 150 words or less. Its purpose is to provide a quick overview of the invention. 
  • Claims – The claim explains what the inventor created and owns. 

First, we should know if we are trying to read a patent to determine infringement or patentability. When our focus is on infringement, we should focus on claims. When trying to find out whether our invention is patentable, we should look to the disclosure, including drawings and detailed descriptions of the preferred embodiments.   

Now we will discuss some components of a patent in detail: 

  • Cover Page – The information usually gives notice of historical facts and distinguishing details, like the date an application was filed and its serial number. It provides the following details regarding the patent: 
    • Type of the publication (e.g., U.S. Patent) and first inventor’s name. 
    • Patent number. 
    • Date the patent is issued 
    • Title of the patent. 
    • Inventors’ names and places of residence 
    • Assignees (patent owners) and their place of business 
    • Application number, which is assigned by the patent office. 
    • Filing date of the patent application. 
    • Applications that are related to those that the patent claims priority from. 
    • “International Classification” code, which is also known as the” International Patent Classification (IPC)”. 
    • U.S. classification codes that the patent relates to, and which are assigned by the Patent Office Examiner.  
    • Field of Search contains the U.S. Classification codes that the Examiner used classification codes to look for prior art. 
    • Records of references included in the patent application process. The names of the primary examiner at the patent office, any assistant examiners, and the attorney, agent, or firm of record are provided after the references. 
    • Abstract, which is a short description of the invention. 
    • The total number of claims and drawings in the patent are shown at the bottom of the cover page. 
  • Specification It includes a description of the invention that must adhere to specific writing standards. Another name for the specification is disclosure.  A specification’s format differs from place to place.  
    • Title of The Invention 
    • Background of The Invention 
    • Summary of The Invention 
    • Description of The Drawings 
    • Detailed Description of The Invention 
    • Claims. 
  • AbstractAt the beginning of the patent application, there is a short description of the invention called an abstract. It should not exceed more than one paragraph. Both the Intellectual Property Office and members of the general public conducting searches in the application’s specific technical field can benefit from it as it gives a basic idea of the invention to the reader. 
  • ClaimsThe most important part of a patent. 
    • The subject matter that the applicant considers to be his invention must be “especially pointed out and clearly claimed” in the claims. The justification is that potential violators must be able to distinguish between what is and is not protected. A patent must contain at least one claim. The preamble and the body of a claim are given separately, with a transitional phrase or word placed between them. 
    • The thing that is to be claimed is named in the preamble, which serves as an introduction. “A process for creating a genetically modified plant,” for instance. 
    • The elements or steps of the identified thing are described in the claim’s body. In claim 1, the stages of “stably changing” and “regenerating” make up the claim’s body. 
  • If we compare the significance of embodiments in utility models as compared to design patents, the embodiment plays a major role in the utility models, as it helps to provide a detailed description of the invention’s working or uses with the help of examples. For instance, how the method or system used in the invention can be manufactured or can be used in the practical world.   
  • But if we talk about Design Patents, patent drawings are more helpful in determining infringement or patentability.   
  • In the case of utility models, drawings provide the context and visual representation of embodiments of the invention. The drawings form part of the disclosure of the present invention, and, as disclosure, they are not the same as the claims. 
  • Therefore, when reading a utility patent, we should focus on the embodiments that give a detailed description of the invention, and when reading a design patent, we should focus on the patent drawings.    

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