Design Patents Make Life Richer

Design Patents Make Life Richer by Pat Werschulz

I write this from the New Jersey Bar Association’s annual meeting in Atlantic City — and I’m thinking about tail lights, slot machines, and faucets. What do they have in common? They’re all protected by design patents.

We may not think about design patents that much, but the next time you’re stuck on the Garden State Parkway (which happened to me when I was driving down to the meeting), look at the sea of glowing, red tail lights. Think about it. They’re all different makes, and they’re all different brands. They all function the same way; they glow when the headlights are on, they glow brighter when you hit the brakes, like when you’re in a traffic jam, and they turn bright white when you’re backing up. They all function the same way, but every make and model has its own unique design and appearance. 

Let’s think about faucets. You might think they’re usually pretty utilitarian and generic. Our rooms at the Borgata’s Water Club were fitted with an elegant faucet in the Kallista® line, from the well-known Kohler® Company. As I walked through the casino, I saw rows and rows of slot machines. Each row of them looked different from all the others.                                      

What do tail lights, faucets, and slot machines have in common? They’re all protected by design patents. 

Earlier that month I was down at the US Patent and Trademark Office for Design Day. It really opened my eyes to all the elements of design in our ordinary day-to-day life that are out there, protected by design patents because their appearances are different. The guts of all slot machines essentially operate the same way. The tail lights all function the same way, and faucets, too — but all these different designs are protected by design patents.                                             

It also opened my eyes to the possibility of what can be patented, and how many people can come up with things that can be protected by a patent — things that may have the same function as other objects, but with a design element that takes it to a different level.                                             

So the next time you’re stuck in traffic or visiting a casino, or even when you go to wash your hands, think about the design that you’re looking at. And think about what design you might be able to come up with that you could protect by a design patent. I can help you protect that!

Patricia Werschulz

Patricia P. Werschulz
Werschulz Patent Law, LLC
23 North Avenue East
Cranford, NJ 07016