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What is a design patent?

A design patent offers the protection of the patent laws to ornamental designs.  For example, a design patent can protect something such as what a shoe looks or what bicycle helmet looks like.  The protection offered by a design patent is narrow because the underlying article itself is not protected, only it’s ornamental appearance. However, unlike with a utility patent, something need not be useful (that is, have utility) to qualify for a design patent.