Differences Between Utility Patent and Design Patent

Patents are legal rights that protect new and non-obvious inventions and its procedures. Patents are classified into three major types, namely utility, design, and plant patents. Each patent has its individual eligibility requirements and secures specific types of the invention depending upon their characteristics. In the following article, we will point out the differences between utility patent and design patent.

Most common among the three is the utility patent. It covers processes, compositions of matter, manufactures, and machines that are innovative and industrially useful. On the other hand, a design patent includes the shape or configuration of an object. Differences between utility and design patent shall be discussed in the next section, in detail. If you are new to this process, as a research scholar or a university, click here to see the free sample reports on Design Patent Search.  You can also find a link to our services below. 

Utility Patent vs Design Patent

A utility patent protects the functionality of the patent, whereas design patent protects the appearance of the patent. Some of the differences are explained below in detail. [ Utility Patent vs Design Patent: What are the Differences? ]

  • Scope of protection: The scope of design patent is limited to only the ornamental appearance of an invention, whereas scope of utility patent lies around the function or structure of an invention. Utility patent can protect many different variations of a product using a single utility patent, whereas design patent can only claim for single clause i.e. appearance.
  • Cost incurred: Since utility patents cover a broader scope of protection, the cost incurred in utility patent is much higher than design patents. Even for hiring attorneys and professionals for consultation, utility patent applications cost way too far than design patents. Utility patent need to be maintained and for this, fees must be paid 3-1/2, 7-1/2, and 11-1/2 years after the paid was issued. While, there is no clause for any such fees to be paid, for design patents after once it gets issued.
  • Patent term: A utility patent lasts 20 years from the earliest filing date, whereas design patent last 14 years, if it was filed before May 13, 2015, and last 15 years if it was filed on or after May 13, 2015.
  • Average pending time: Average pending time for utility patent is more than 3 years, while less than 18 months for design patent.
  • Rejection probability: Since there is a significant difference in the claimed subject matter between utility and design patents, there exists a difference in their probabilities of being rejected from the patent examiner. Utility based patents works on a broader scope due to which its probability of initial rejection is approximately 80-90%, whereas design based patents covers only the claims for appearance, its rejection probability lies very close to negligibility.
  • Application length: Utility patents cover broader aspects and hold a higher rate of rejection and therefore, they possess longer application process in comparison with the design patent application.


Categorizing patents does not mean that their filing will differ. Regardless of its type, patent protection is obtained by filing an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), by any choosing any provisional or non-provisional patent applications mode.

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