Protection of GUIs as Industrial Design Patents

GUI (Graphical User Interface) design is an emerging player in the technology industry, and more so in the world of patents. For companies that are in the business of selling goods and services through websites over the internet, GUI plays a vital role in attracting their consumers. Hence, the GUIs, which often exist in the form of simple icons, visual signals, and screen layouts, have become invaluable and beneficial Intellectual Property (IP) assets that represent a business’s brand identity and goodwill. Like other assets, these GUIs are also vulnerable to get infringed, i.e., copied and used by unauthorized users. Hence, the companies, which rely on GUIs to make profits by attracting and making consumers buy from them, need to protect their GUIs. In this article, we’ll explore how Industrial Design Patents can protect GUIs, thus making them vital components of any robust IP strategy.

Depending on several aspects, different countries have different rules and laws for the protection of GUIs. In general, GUIs may be secured under Copyright and Trademark Law, but Design Patent Protection offers distinct advantages over many other forms of IP protection.

  • Design patents can protect icons and screen designs that don’t function as trademarks.
  • For obtaining protection by the Registration of Industrial Design Patent, there is no requirement of creativity, as in the case of copyright.
  • Design patents possess validity. It means although the term of a design patent registration is limited to 15 years, it rarely outlives because of the driving nature of design, especially in the graphic user interface area.
  • Unlike copyright or several other Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) where fair use defense exists, design patent infringement isn’t available with this defense.
  • Design patent rights are easier to enforce than trademark and copyright, as no consumer survey or copying is required to prove infringement.
  • The measure of damages is a remarkable advantage. For instance, according to the rules for design patent damages – an infringer shall be liable to the patent owner to the extent of his total profit; whereas, Copyright Law limits the damages to the defendant’s profits attributable to the infringing component.
  • A design patent cannot just expand the intellectual property portfolio of the company but also increase its future asset value.

Significant Aspects Associated with GUI that Are Protectable as Design Patents

  • Firstly, novel icons related to GUI are protectable as design patents. These icons are the visual representations that display the subject matter related to the application. For example – an envelope representing e-mail, camera lens representing a camera, etc. In the case of third-party applications (apps), the app icon appears to be the most vital thing with which that particular company can convey its brand. Hence, protecting the app icon with the help of the design patent is of great importance.
  • Secondly, the GUIs that you can view when the app gets opened are also eligible to be protected as design patents. For instance, on clicking the icon, you can open the app and see the GUIs inside. At this stage, the novelty aspect is all about the GUI’s layout that includes the specific location of each element, which is also protectable. For instance, on opening a camera app, you can see the control and settings buttons displayed in a specific layout. All these are protectable as long as they are novel and nonobvious.
  • Finally, animation related to GUI is also protectable. For example, when you click on the settings of the camera app, the screen often slides to either right or left off the settings page. This type of movement in the app is protectable as a design patent. One common example of protection of such movement in GUI is the Apple ‘Cover Flow’ design patent, which safeguards flipping through albums in the music player interface and iTunes.

GUI is a booming technological area, and if we talk about GUI patents, then it is true that a major portion of the total design patent filings made worldwide is related to GUIs. Moreover, the number has been rapidly accelerating. The protection of GUI is an imperative type of Intellectual Property Protection that a developer should obtain to protect the company brand. Because of the continuous and rapid technological developments, it is expected that the future will see GUIs as essential assets for any business that wants to interact with its audience. That’s why almost all, including people, companies, national to International Industrial Design Registration service providers, etc., believe that the GUI protection must not be limited only to the software world, rather all industries should consider protecting GUIs strongly.

Design patents are what offer unique rights/ protection against GUI counterfeits and third parties, whose mimicking designs may cause the likelihoods of confusion. Furthermore, they can even help the owner to increase the value of his/ her IP portfolio, and thus, attract investors. For more visit:

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