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Difference Between A Design And A Patent

Most people think that a design and a patent are the same things. This could not be further from the truth. Comparing a design to a patent would be like comparing apples to oranges (or comparing the Samsung and iPhone design). So, what are designs and how do they differ from patents?


A design protects the visual appearance of a product, that is the shape, colour, texture, configuration, pattern and ornamentation of a product. A registered design can protect a two-dimensional product, such as the pattern and ornamentation of a print, or a three-dimensional product, such as the shape and configuration of a mobile device.

To obtain a registered design, your design must be new and distinctive when compared to the prior art. For instance, to be considered distinctive, your design must not be substantially similar in overall impression to an existing design. A registered design right gives you the ability to stop others from making, selling or using copying your design within any territory in which the design right was registered.


While a design protects the appearance of your product, a granted patent protects the functional features of your invention. A patent may be directed towards a device, substance, method, or process that is not only new but is also inventive and useful. Once your patent has been granted, you can stop others from commercially exploiting the invention, that is, you can stop them from making, selling, or using the invention. within any territory in which the patent right was granted.

You can be granted a patent for a whole host of things, from a method of manufacturing a vaccine to a wearable device to a downhole drilling tool. There have been patents granted that changed the world (the Telephone, patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876) and ones that are just strange (the Anti-eating Face Mask, patented by Lucy L. Barmby in 1982).

Design and Patent Overlap

Depending on your invention, you may be able to protect both how your invention works and how it looks – Apple Inc. has deployed this strategy very effectively!

Still unsure on the difference?

Want to understand more about if you need to register a design or file a patent? Contact us today to talk to one of our Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys at Kings IP, who can take you through each type of IP right and see which is right for you.

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