All About Ornamental Design Patents

There are three different types of patents: utility, design, and plant.

Plant patents protect new and distinctive plants.

The most common types of patents are utility patents and design patents.

Utility patents protect how things work.

Ornamental design patents protect the way things look. 

What is an ornamental design patent?

Ornamental design patents protect non-functional features of a product, in other words, how it looks, not how it is used or how it works.

The US Patent and Trademark Office Design Patent Guide explains:

An ornamental design may be embodied in an entire article or only a portion of an article, or may be ornamentation applied to an article. If a design is directed to just surface ornamentation, it must be shown applied to an article in the drawings, and the article must be shown in broken lines, as it forms no part of the claimed design.

USPTO Design Patent Guide

In this first picture, the entire article – in other words the shape of this vacuum cleaner – is the embodiment, and is what is patented.

vacuum design

In this example, the particulars of the tire are not covered by the patent because you see the broken lines. Only the design of the tread is patented. It’s also important to note in a design patent, the claim is only for the way it looks. It says nothing about whether this tread on a tire works better than some other design.

tire tread design

In this image, the patent is for surface ornamentation that is placed on top a shoe. The shoe itself is not protected by the patent.

ornamental shoe design

How Do You Get a Patent for an Ornamental Design?

These are the basic steps involved in getting a patent for an ornamental design:

  1. First step is to determine whether your design is eligible for a patent. The design must be “ornamental,” meaning it’s not dictated by the how the object works. It can be for either the shape of an object or for surface ornamentation applied to the object. If it’s surface ornamentation, it must be applied to an object. “Disembodied” surface ornamentation is not patentable. It must also be original. It cannot copy something that has already been done, regardless of whether the similar object is patented or not.
  2. The next step would be to do a prior art search, to see whether the same design, or something very similar to it, has already been patented. You can hire services who will conduct these searches for you. This is an important step, because even if you did somehow manage to get a patent for an design that had been done before, you would not be able to enforce it in court, so it would be worthless.
  3. The next step is to put together everything you need for your ornamental design patent application, especially the drawings, the they are the only claim in the patent.
  4. After that you file the patent. You may have to respond to office actions from the patent office before the patent is granted.

There are also fees that need to be paid. 

See our article on “How to File a Design Patent on your Own” for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ornamental Design Patents

  • How long does the protection for a design patent last? Design patents have a term of 15 years from the date of grant.
  • How long does it take to get an ornamental design patent? It typically takes one to three years, depending on whether the patent office requests and clarifications or changes.
  • How much does it cost to get a design patent? If you do it yourself, the cost can be as low as $1000. With the help of an attorney, it will typically run $1,500 to $3,000. 
  • What are the requirements for design patent drawings? See our article on “How to Prepare Successful Patent Drawings for Design Patents.”


Ornamental design patents provide a valuable way to protect a design that is unique to your product.

Whether you decide to file patent application on your own or work with a patent attorney, having high-quality patent drawings is essential to a successful patent application.

At Invention Patent Drawings we take pride in providing high-quality ornamental design patent drawings at an affordable price. Please contact us with any questions, or if you would like a quotation for your patent drawings.