Intellectual Property (IP) may be a business method most valuable asset. Patents, copyright, trademarks and designs all provide different types of IP rights that can protect an innovation. In fact, a single product or innovation maybe eligible to be protected by multiple IP rights.
What is the difference between patent protection and design protection?
A patent is a document issued to grant protection for an invention. An invention refers to any innovation or invention which is novel, inventive, and useful to society.
The invention covered by a patent should be deemed capable of industrial application. Usually, patents are included in one of the following categories: product; process; machine; composition of matters; software; articles of manufacture.
When an inventor obtains a patent, he will have exclusive rights over the invention, and others will be prevented from using it. Having the exclusive rights of an invention can provide many benefits and can lead to various business opportunities.
For instance, a patented invention could help attract investors or bring new value to the business. It could also give the inventor the upper hand in negotiations against competitors.
In Thailand, an invention patent has a term of 20 years from the date of filing the application.
A design refers to any form or composition of lines or colors which gives a special appearance to a product and can serve as a pattern for a product or handicraft.
Design protection is most beneficial when the design of the product is commercially valuable. Indeed, consumers are usually attracted by product appearance. The design is also a means of distinguishing the product.
If a product consists of multiple designs, then a separate application must be filed for each design. Each design is considered distinct even if they are on the same product.
In Thailand, a registered design has a term of 10 years from the date of filing the application.
What are the pros and cons of patent and design protection?
Protecting invention by patent encourages inventors to invest and conduct research in return for potential benefits.
A patented invention can be licensed to other parties or kept exclusivity for the benefit of the inventor.
In both cases, the inventor is able to benefit from the invention.
- Under a license, the inventor is able to receive royalties from people or companies wishing to use the invention.
- Inventors who keep an invention exclusively for themselves may sell to third parties.
However, if an inventor merely wants to protect the appearance of a product, then registering a patent might not be the best option.
A registered design is less expensive to register than a patent and even faster to obtain. However, registering a design does not protect the functional aspect of the product, but could still be a temporary solution for inventors planning to patent an invention.
What are the steps involved to secure patent and design protection?
To obtain a patent, an inventor must be sure that there is not any “prior art”, meaning that the invention has to be new and should not have been used or disclosed to the public. The only way to protect an invention not yet patented is to keep it confidential.
When an invention is an improvement of an old product or technology, the inventor can also apply for a patent. However, the inventor should not disclose it to the public or use it before filing an application.
- Determine if the invention is patentable
- Application (filing a patent application)
- Preliminary examination by the patent office
- Publication and opposition
- Substantive examination by the patent office
- Grant of patent
The design must be new and should not already be widely known or published.
The design has to be the designer’s own intellectual property and should not be considered contrary to public order and morality.
- Application (filling a design patent application)
- Formal examination by the patent office
- Publication and objection
- Substantial examination by the patent office
- Grant of design patent