Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Best Way To Protect Doll House Design?

Dear Rich: I just read an old entry of yours about design patents and doll houses. So just to be clear, if one designs a doll house, doll, doll etc., they are to get a design patent, yes? Must they get a patent for every new doll sculpt/outfit/change to the exterior? No and maybe. Design patents -- though they may provide protection for some designs -- are not suitable for every doll house. To qualify for a design patent, the innovation must be original and ornamental. The challenge is that some doll houses may not be original (for example vintage doll house designs). Some may be functional (not ornamental) but may qualify, instead for a utility patent. Some designs may be better protected by copyright instead of design patents (read about the differences here). As for changes, if you make major changes in the appearance of the doll or doll house after filing a design patent application, you will need to file an additional application to cover the changes.
What should you do? We'd recommend that you start by getting some background on both design patents and copyrights and decide which works best for your doll house and your doll designs. Because of the cost and instant protection, we'd recommend copyright protection. Also keep in mind that if you have publicly disclosed or sold your design, you can no longer seek patent protection. So, you need to make your decision prior to the doll or doll house's public debut. And of course, there's also trademark law to protect the name of your Barbie or Betsy Wetsy (here's the story of that brilliant innovation) We discuss doll trademarks here.

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