One of the questions that I am asked frequently by clients is whether design patent protection is available in the United States for icons or logos. In Europe, for example, there is a particular Locarno classification for screen displays and icons, and a separate classification for logos. However, in the US, one cannot protect a screen icon or logo by itself. The United States only grants design patents on an article of manufacture, or on surface ornamentation as applied to the article of manufacture.
Fortunately, the USPTO allows the use of broken lines in design patents to disclaim environmental structure. Thus, one way in which I have successfully obtained patent protection for screen icons is to draw the screen in broken lines, with the icon the only claimed element. As for logos, the options are somewhat more limited, as a particular class of article must be chosen. For example, if the logo is to appear on both clothing and sporting goods, one must choose to file the patent on either a piece of sports equipment, or an article of clothing as the design patent (or file two applications). Of course, the entire piece of sports equipment or the article of clothing can be drawn in broken lines, so that the details of the article itself are not part of the design.
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