The patent laws provide for the granting of design patents to any person who has invented any new and non-obvious ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The design patent protects only the appearance of an article, but not its structural or functional features. The proceedings relating to granting of design patents are the same as those relating to other patents with a few differences. A design patent has a term of 14 years from grant, and no fees are necessary to maintain a design patent in force. The drawing defines the scope of patent protection.
(Excerpted from General Information Concerning Patents print brochure)