Design patents can play an important role in protecting a tech startup’s innovations and creating competitive advantage, whether they are the only available protection or part of a larger patent strategy. Often overlooked and sometimes undervalued, design patents are typically easier and less costly to obtain than utility patents. While generally having a more limited scope of protection, design patents can still deter potential infringers in the U.S. and foreign countries.
As of May 13, 2015, U.S. emerging tech companies have a new option for design protection in foreign countries. The U.S. joined the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs on May 13, 2015, and U.S. design patent applicants can now take advantage of the Hague System to obtain protection for their inventive designs in foreign countries.