Utility Patent Vs Design Patent – Important Differences

In this article, we will discuss some key points regarding utility patent vs design patent. Patents are legal rights that protect new and non-obvious inventions and their procedures.

Generally, patents are classified into three major types. They are utility, design, and plant patents. Each patent has its individual eligibility requirements and secures specific type of the invention. This depends upon their characteristics.

The basic difference in utility patent vs design patent is, utility patents cover processes, compositions of matter and manufacture. It also includes machines that are innovative and industrially useful.

Conversely, design patents include the shapes or configurations of an object.

Also Read: How To conduct Patent Search: A Quick Guide

Utility Patent vs Design Patent – Differences

A utility patent protects the functionality of the invention. Wheras, a design patent protects the appearance of the invention.

In addition to the above difference, some of the differences are explained below in detail:

Scope of protection

The scope of a design patent is limited to only the ornamental appearance of an invention. Whereas, the scope of utility patent lies around the function or structure of an invention.

Also, a utility patent can protect many variations of a product using a single patent. Whereas, design patent can only claim for a single clause i.e. appearance.

The cost incurred

Since utility patents cover a broader scope of protection so the cost incurred in utility patents is much higher than design patents. Even for hiring attorneys and professionals for consultation, utility patent applications cost way too far than design patents.

In addition to that, Utility patent requires maintenance fees. That is, you must pay it at the 4th, 8th and 12th year 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 for 20 years from the earliest filing date. Whereas, a design patent lasts for 14 years.

Average processing time

The average pending time for a utility patent is 25.6 months. And, on the other hand, design patent lasts for 1-3 years.

Rejection probability

Utility-based patents work on a broader scope due to which its probability of initial rejection is approximately 80-90%. On the other hand, design-based patents cover only the claims for appearance. Consequently, its rejection probability lies very close to negligible.

Application process time

Utility patents cover broader aspects and hold a higher rate of rejection. And therefore, they possess a longer application process in comparison with the design patent application.

Infringement determination

You compare two designs visually in order to check the infringement in the design patents. However, utility patents contain a number of claims and you look for similar claims to catch Infringement among utility patents.

Also Read: A Complete Guide to Patent Novelty Search


Table showing Utility Patent vs Design Patent




Design Patent


Utility Patent


Scope of Protection




Cost incurred

Low filing fees

No maintenance fees

High filing and maintenance fees


Patent term

14 years from the filing date

20 years from the filing date


Average processing time

12-36 months

25.6 months


Rejection probability

Very low



Application length




Infringement determination via



Important points for Utility Patent vs Design Patent

USPTO has provided different guidelines for design as well as utility patent. You must follow different formalities while dealing with different patents.

Also, you only require a single claim in a design patent but multiple claims when filing utility patent.

Moreover, you can use a single detailed drawing with the utility patent but you require every standard view with the design patent.


Also Read: Introduction to Freedom to Operate Search


Categorizing patents does not mean that their filing will differ.

As a result, regardless of its type, patent protection is obtained by filing an application. This application is with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Moreover, they can be in either provisional or non-provisional patent application mode.

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Consequently, our main aim is 100% customer satisfaction from last 16 years. To know more about our services, request for free samples or visit The Patent Search Firm.

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