The Role of Design Patents: Protecting Toys and Games

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Often times when people think of patents, they think of what are known as “utility” patents. Utility patents protect the functional aspects on an invention, for example, how a device works, or the specific combination and configuration of components that make up the device. However, there is also another category of patents, which are known as “design” patents. Design patents protect the ornamental appearance of an invention. This article discusses the important role that design patents play in the toy and game industry.

Design patents protect the unique ornamental appearance of a product

Many new products in the toy and game industry are updated versions or variations of pre-existing toys and games. This can make it difficult or impossible to obtain utility patent protection on the product. However, design patents may still be available to protect the unique ornamental appearance of an otherwise conventional product.

For example, with board games, a design patent may be used to protect the unique appearance of game pieces, spinners, timers, and in some cases, the playing board. For toys, a design patent may be available to protect, for example, the ornamental appearance of an action figure or toy car. In these cases, design patent protection can be particularly valuable in fighting counterfeiters and knock-offs, especially where the main selling factor of the product is its unique appearance or theme.

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