The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published new guidance in the Federal Register on November 17, 2023, that clarifies the requirements for design patents of computer-generated images, icons, and graphical user interfaces.
The new guidance is of particular importance to companies that rely on computer websites and applications to interface with their clients and customers. The visual appearance and ornamental design appearing on screen can be an important market differentiator. Securing design patent protection of these visual elements can protect against competitive encroachment of this important element of customer engagement.
United States Patent Law has long protected design inventions as new, original and ornamental designs for an article of manufacture. The long-standing limitation is that this design patent protection is afforded for a design embodied as an article of manufacture, and not for the design per se. Protection for a design standing alone may be secured through copyright as a creative work, or through trademark if the design is used as a source identifier.
The new guidance provides additional clarity on the standards applied by USPTO examiners to ensure that design patent applicants do not cross the line in patenting a design standing alone. The new guidance clarifies the specific requirements in the title, the claim, and the drawings to place the design invention properly embodied in an article of manufacture, typically a computer screen or display.
Click here to review the USPTO’s new guidance in detail.