Screen icons have tremendous branding power for companies. You undoubtedly know these:
Smart phones, tablets and other touchscreen devices work primarily with screen icons. Consumer recognition is powerful, so companies want to prevent copycat icon images from being introduced into the cyber-sphere marketplace. Microsoft has an aggressive patent portfolio for its icons, owning 44% of the icon-type patents (compared to 5% for competitors Apple and Samsung). Interestingly, Pepsi also has a significant icon design patent portfolio.
How do you go about protecting your icons from copying by competitors? Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) (screen icons) are protectable under design patent laws as surface ornamentation of an article of manufacture, computer display or smartphone. Since most icon designs fall within class D/4/485-495, this is the class you should search to determine if your icon is novel. To be patentable, a design must be novel, non-obvious and non-functional. Animated designs may also be patented. At least two drawings of the animated series must be depicted, but more may be needed to convey the animation sufficiently. The drawings should be prepared in the same manner as conventional design patents, or alternatively, digital images may be used with a color petition and fees.
Design patents are cost-effective, needing a budget of $2,000 – $5,000 in most cases. Design patents can bolster your trademark protection program and offer another remedy. If you are considering a design patent application, TJLF can assist you.