No matter where in the world you do business, you have to be able to protect your company’s intellectual property portfolio. Unfortunately, many American business owners in China know little about design patents.
Without a design patent, you may lose your ability to enforce your IP rights.
What is a design patent?
According to patent law, designs are shapes, colors or patterns that create an aesthetic fit for industrial application. In China, design patents are both inexpensive and powerful. However, in the U.S., design patents only protect the ornamental appearance, not the function. The difference is part of why many Americans do not seek design patents. The problem with this perception of design patents is that the patent can cover functional products in China.
Do design patents only protect replicas?
There are a lot of misconceptions about design patents, especially among foreign business owners in China. If you have limited knowledge about IP law in China, you may find it challenging to choose how to protect your intellectual property. Design patents do not only protect identical replicas. Similarities between the two products are enough to claim infringement.
Is trade dress the same as design patents?
Trade dress may seem similar to design patents. However, trade dress has two ways to prove infringement. First, you must prove that consumers recognize your brand and that the infringing item creates customer confusion. In many cases, Chinese business owners will have a design patent and trade dress.
Protections for your intellectual property may look different in China versus the U.S. Therefore, it is critical to understand how licensing and infringement work.