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Seven - Classification of Design Patents

Chapter Table of Contents


A. Purpose

The Design classification schedule of the USPC system provides a structured organization for the body of U.S. Design patents. Since the claim of a Design Patent is directed to "an ornamental design" for "an article of manufacture" [35 USC 171], the Design classification schedule promotes efficient access to industrial designs that have been granted patent rights.

 B. Theory

Classification of design patents is based on the concept of function or intended use of the industrial design disclosed and claimed in the Design patent. Industrial designs that have the same function are generally collected in the same Design class, even though individual designs may be used in different environments.

For example, patented designs for seating are classified in class D6, Furnishings, even though these designs may be used in the home, workplace, vehicles, etc. Industrial designs of the same function are further classified by specific functional feature, distinctive ornamental appearance, or form.

 C. Design Patent Classes

U.S. Design patents are classified into 33 classes of subject matter:


D1 Edible Products
D2 Apparel and Haberdashery
D3 Travel Goods, Personal Belongings, and Storage or Carrying Articles
D4 Brushware
D5 Textile or Paper Yard Goods; Sheet Material
D6 Furnishings
D7 Equipment for Preparing or Serving Food or Drink Not Elsewhere Specified
D8 Tools and Hardware
D9 Packages and Containers for Goods
D10 Measuring, Testing or Signaling Instruments
D11 Jewelry, Symbolic Insignia, and Ornaments
D12 Transportation
D13 Equipment for Production, Distribution, or Transformation of Energy
D14 Recording, Communication, or Information Retrieval Equipment
D15 Machines Not Elsewhere Specified
D16 Photography and Optical Equipment
D17 Musical Instruments
D18 Printing and Office Machinery
D19 Office Supplies; Artists’ and Teachers’ Materials
D20 Sales and Advertising Equipment
D21 Games, Toys and Sports Goods
D22 Arms, Pyrotechnics, Hunting and Fishing Equipment
D23 Environmental Heating and Cooling, Fluid Handling and Sanitary Equipment
D24 Medical and Laboratory Equipment
D25 Building Units and Construction Elements
D26 Lighting
D27 Tobacco and Smokers’ Supplies
D28 Cosmetic Products and Toilet Articles
D29 Equipment for Safety, Protection and Rescue
D30 Animal Husbandry
D32 Washing, Cleaning or Drying Machines
D34 Material or Article Handling Equipment
D99 Miscellaneous

 1. Subclass

Each Design class is organized into subclasses to permit efficient searching for specific types of industrial designs.

A subclass is a collection of design patents found in a Design Class, which pertain to a particular function, a specific functional feature, or distinctive ornamental appearance or form.

For example, the subject matter in class D6, Furnishings, is classified by function into broad subclasses of similar types of furnishings–seating, work surfaces, storage, furniture parts and elements, etc. Because there are so many patented designs for the same general types of furnishings, this subject matter is further classified into subordinate or "indented" subclasses to promote efficient access to specific types of industrial designs.

As further illustration, there are too many Design patents for seating in Class D6 for efficient searching in a single subclass. Accordingly, an array of indented subclasses of various types of seating has been developed. These subclasses are as follows:


334 . Seating Unit (3)*
335      . . Combined or convertible (4)
336      . . . With work surface or storage unit (5)
337      . . . . Plural facing seats
338      . . . . Work surface positioned at the front of seat
339      . . . . . High chair for juvenile (6)
340      . . . . . Straddle type
341      . . . . . Asymmetrical attachment, e.g., offset art, etc.
342      . . . . Seat attached at front (7)
343      . . . With apparel support, i.e., “valet” (8)
344      . . Swinging or rocking
345      . . . Simulative (9)
346      . . . Plural facing seats
347      . . . Suspended
348      . . . Curved runner contacts floor
349      . . Hassock, ottoman, stool or bench, i.e. without armrest and backrest (10)
350      . . . Stepped (11)
351      . . . Simulative (13)
352      . . . Three or more repeats or uniform pattern about axis
353      . . . Folding or adjustable
354      . . Straddle type, e.g., saddle, etc.
355      . . Backless
356      . . Vehicle type
357      . . Oppositely facing plural seats
358      . . Simulative (12)

** The numbers in parentheses refer to Search Notes found at the end of the Design schedule. For a detailed explanation, see Section F1, Search Notes, below.

Where a subordinate subclass contains a large number of industrial designs, this subject matter may be further classified into additional subordinate subclasses. For example, the classification of Swinging or rocking type seating (D6-344) has been expanded into an array of subordinate subclasses according to functional type and by ornamental appearance or form in subclasses D6-345 through D6-348.

A search of the broad or general subclass and its indented subclasses is designed to be comprehensive and should include all pertinent designs for the subject matter specified in the subclass title.

Unique to Design patent subclass titles is the term "simulative." This term is used to refer to Design patents that look like or simulate the appearance of another article either by the use of applied ornamentation or form.

For example, Class D1, Edible Products, contains an array of subclasses under the heading of Simulative (see subclasses 107 - 115 below). These subclasses contain patented designs for edible food products that simulate the appearance of other articles. D1-113 contains edible food products that simulate vehicles or parts of vehicles, such as a "car" or a "vehicle wheel". D1-107 contains patented designs for edible products that look like animals. Indented under this subclass is D1-108, which contains designs for edible food products that simulate the human body. Indented under D1-108 is D1-109 which contains patented designs for edible products which simulate a "[Human] Head or other appendage."


107 . Animate
108 . . Humanoid
109 . . . Head or other appendage
110 . . Quadruped
111 . . Marine life
112 . . Heart shaped
113 . Vehicle or component thereof
114 . Alpha or numeric
115 . Plant life

 2. Relationship to Utility Classes

There is no relationship between the titles and numerical designations used in Design schedules and those in Utility classes. A directory of Utility and Design titles and subject matter can be found in the Index to the US Patent Classification System.

 D. Definitions

At present, all Design classes have main class definitions and main line subclass definitions.  These definitions should be consulted when planning a search in order to ensure that certain subject matter has not been classified in a Design class not previously considered. Definitions for the remainder of the subclasses are being developed and will be published at a future date. Until formally defined, the meanings of the terms used in these Design subclass titles are assumed to be based on common dictionary definitions.  As additional subclasses are defined, the search notes found at the end of the subclass schedules will be incorporated into the definitions and removed from the schedules (see Section F1 below.)

 E. Hierarchy

The principle of hierarchy used to classify utility patents, as outlined in Section V of this Handbook, also applies to the classification of Design patents. Design patents are placed as original documents (ORs) in the first Design class of pertinent subject matter and subsequently in the first pertinent subclass or indented subclass of the Design class. Design patents that have been placed in one class as an OR will appear in other Design or Utility subclasses only as supplemental or cross-reference (XR) documents.

For example, Design patents for airplanes are properly classified as ORs in Class D12, Transportation. However, if a particular airplane design is considered to be a useful reference that should be included with the collection of industrial designs for toy airplanes, an XR may be classified in one or more subclasses for toy airplanes in Class D21, Games, Toys, Exercise Equipment and Sports Goods. Conversely, if a Design patent for a toy airplane is believed to be pertinent or similar in appearance to designs for a genuine airplane, an XR may be classified in Class D12.

 F. Unique Features of Design Patent Classification

 1. Search Notes

Search Notes may be found placed after some subclass titles and/or at the end of some Design class schedules. Search Notes are used to explain the subject matter found in a specific subclass.

For example, the subclass title of Class D6, subclass 334 is "Seating unit." A Search Note (3) has been added in parentheses immediately after the subclass title. This Note (3), found at the end of the D6 schedule, states "for leg, see subclasses 709 through 709.22," meaning that although the design patents in D6-334 and its indented subclasses may include ornamental designs that include disclosures of seating type legs, D6-709 and its indented subclasses contain additional designs for furniture legs.

In some cases, a search note immediately following the subclass title further explains the subject matter in the subclass. For example:

349 . . Hassock, ottoman, stool or bench, i.e. without armrest and backrest (10)

The note "i.e., without armrest and backrest" further clarifies the nature of the subject matter classified in this particular subclass. Note (10) of this same subclass title is found at the end of the D6 schedule and explains: "For bench type seating with an armrest, see subclass 355. For straddle type seat, see subclass 354. "

 2. Cross-Reference Art Collections and Digests

Cross-Reference Art Collections are collections of Design and Utility patents for subject matter that is not specifically provided for in a particular subclass. This subject matter is generally very diverse, broad in scope, and includes industrial designs that have multiple functions. Cross-Reference Art Collections provide an overview of certain subject matter and should be included in a comprehensive search.

For example, at the end of the schedule for Class D3, Travel Goods, Personal Belongings, and Storage or Carrying Articles, Cross-Reference Art Collections are provided for Briefcase, Tool Box or Tackle Box and Cosmetic Case. There are no subclasses for this subject matter in the Design schedule since the scope of the subject matter is too diverse to be classified in a single subclass or array of subclasses. A review of these C ross-Reference Art Collections provides a perspective of the specified type of subject matter and can be used to find Design patents pertinent to a particular search. Each document in the collection has an OR classification in the USPCS, which can be used to locate additional subject matter with a similar specific function or ornamental appearance.

Design Digests are informal collections of Design patents, Utility patents, and non-patent literature. Digests have been compiled by patent examiners as collections of industrial designs to provide a "shortcut" to a comprehensive search of a specific art. For example, for the convenience of examiners searching tool handles, Class D8, Tools and Hardware, contains an array of Handle Digests with collections of different types of patented handles found throughout the Design and Utility patent schedules.

All patents in a Digest are classified as ORs in the appropriate Design and Utility classes but are not available as a unitary search in a specific subclass. As with Utility patents, no Design patent may issue as an OR in Cross-Reference Art Collections or Digests.

 G. Placement Rules for Design Patents

Design patents are classified as ORs in the first Design class that contains subject matter most pertinent to the subject matter claimed. Within the Design Class the patent is classified in the first pertinent subclass or indented subclass that describes the specific function, intended use, or ornamental features of the design claimed. If an OR does not meet the criteria of any particular subclass title, the OR is placed in the most appropriate general or broad subclass of the particular Design class.

When a Design patent includes more than one embodiment of an industrial design, the patent is classified as an OR according to the first embodiment shown in the drawing disclosure. Additional classifications are placed for the additional embodiments as XRs in the appropriate Design Class and subclass.

If the subject matter of any Design patent is considered pertinent to an additional subclass or subclasses, XRs of the patent may be included at the discretion of the Design classifier.

If a Design patent claims a combined article, such as a clock radio, the patent is classified as an OR according to the Exclusion and Search Notes or in the first pertinent Design class and subclass that provides for the subject matter claimed. XRs of the patent may be placed as necessary. In Design patent practice, mandatory XRs are not required.

 H. Locarno International Classification of Designs

U.S. Design patents issued after May 6, 1997, are assigned a Locarno International Classification for Industrial Designs in addition to the U.S. classification. Dual classification is provided to improve access to U.S. Design patents in foreign search files that are based on the Locarno International Classification system, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO).

The structure of the Locarno International Classification System for Industrial Designs is substantially parallel to that of the U.S. system. The Locarno system classifies industrial designs according to function in 34 classes, which contain substantially the same subject matter as their USPC counterparts. Accordingly, the subject matter found in U.S. Class D1 or Class D2, etc., will be substantially the same as that found in Locarno Class 01 or Class 02, etc. The exception is Locarno Class 31-00, Machines and Appliances for Preparing Food or Drink not Elsewhere Specified. All of the material found in Locarno Class 31-00 is included in U.S. Class D7, Equipment for Preparing or Serving Food or Drink Not Elsewhere Specified.

The USPC system has many more Design subclasses than the Locarno system. For example, Class D21 has 540 subclasses. Locarno Class 21-00 has only 5 subclasses. The larger number of subclasses available in the USPC provides improved access to patented industrial designs through more detailed designation of subclasses for subject matter.

Locarno designations may be used to search U.S. Design patents with EAST or WEST automated search systems available at USPTO and some Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries.

 I. Questions About Design Patent Classification

General questions about how to use the USPC for Design patents can be directed to the USPTO Contact Center at 1-800-786-9199 or in the Washington, D.C., area at 571-272-1000.


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Last Modified: 10/18/2012 2:36:01 PM