Patented: 1000 Design Patents by Thomas Rinaldi- Book Review

Thomas Rinaldi’s new book- Patented: 1,000 Design Patents, covers design patents, one per page and arranged chronologically, from 1900 to the present.

The book documents a shift in design patents over the years. Unlike utility patents, which cover how inventions function, design patents cover only the look of the object. Rinaldi traces the need for design patents back to the beginnings of mass production, when it became easier to produce objects on a large scale, and easier to copy designs.

When design patents were introduced in 1842, there were only 14 designs registered. By the 1930’s, the patent office was issuing 3,000 design patents per year, and 6,500 by 1941. That number wasn’t surpassed until 1989 but has since swelled to around 35,000 per year.

The huge increase in design patents today has come mostly from the tech industry. A landmark case between Apple and Samsung led to Apple being awarded $539 million. This amount was vastly larger than the usual sums awarded for design patent infringement, and in turn led to tech companies engaging in an arms race to patent as many details of their products as possible. These assets are included as part of patent portfolios that can be sold, licensed, or traded, and act as insurance policies against potential infringement litigation.

The book is really a documenting of design: both the stylistic changes through the decades, as well as the continuity of patent drawings, which to this day demand simple black linework on white paper. Pages will show evolution of products through the years, some relatively stable in their designs, others changing more radically. One can see on the pages the design paradigms of the shifting times- from more highly ornamental in the early decades of the 20th century, to the art deco look of the 30’s, to the ‘space age look’, etc.

You can find more information about the book here: