I recently wrote about the United States joining the Hague Agreement for industrial designs and the benefit of design patents in a patent portfolio. This weekend I was in a local sporting goods store and I saw a great example of effectively using design patents to protect intellectual property. A fishing lure company that manufactures a wide variety of soft plastic lures had stamped its design patent number on the outside packaging of various types of lures (you can tell it’s a design patent because the patent number starts with the letter “D”).
This is a great use of design patents. A lure company manufacturing soft plastic lures likely introduces new lure designs on a regular basis. With so many variations being introduced all the time, it is likely that the differences in new designs are more ornamental than functional. However, if the ornamental design is new, it may be protected as long as the design is not purely functional. Though a new lure design may have functionality that is protectable with a utility patent, a family of design patents may be the better way to go in this case because protection for different lure designs can be obtained in a faster and more cost effective manner by filing for a design patent covering each new design.
A design patent for a fishing lure may be used to protect the configuration or shape of the lure, the surface ornamentation of the lure, or both. Therefore, an issued design patent may be used to prevent a competitor from making a similar lure having the same shape and/or surface design. Thus, a family of design patents can provide a great way to protect a line of products having different ornamental designs.