The Drawings

We recommend that you start your design patent application with your drawings. That’s because the design patent only protects what is disclosed in the drawings. If you later change the design substantially, you can’t stop others from copying it unless you apply for a new design patent.

Must be accurate. Design patent drawings must accurately illustrate the object’s shape, proportions, surface contours, and any special material properties or textures. The drawings must show every feature of the object that is visible during normal use, so that no part of it is left to conjecture and they must be shaded to depict surface characteristics, such as transparency, and to distinguish between open and solid areas.

Drawings or photographs? Most design patent applicants furnish standardized line drawings as shown below. However, under some circumstances, an applicant is permitted to furnish black and white, or color photographs. The rules for providing photographs are provided at the bottom of this page.

Figuring the Views

Because, drawings are an essential element of a design patent, most design patents include multiple views of the design.

When in doubt, include a view. Typically, a design patent application should provide a complete  set of views from all sides; this is usually accomplished with the six standard views, including front, back, right, left, top, and bottom views. So, for example, you might include the rear view of a wall-mounted lamp even though the consumer may never see this view. The idea is that the drawings should contain a sufficient number of views to completely show the appearance of your design. However, there are exceptions as discussed. 

perspective views of iPod (above) and table top (below)

sectional view of glass cover (above)

  • Perspective views. Although it’s not required, the USPTO suggests that perspective views be submitted to show three-dimensional designs. Left is a perspective view of the second-generation iPod design. Another example is the table in Fig 1, left. If a perspective view is submitted, the surfaces shown normally won’t be required to be illustrated in other views if these surfaces are clearly understood and fully disclosed in the perspective.
  • Duplicate views. If the left and right sides of a design are identical or a mirror image, a view should be provided of one side and a statement made in the drawing description that the other side is identical or a mirror image. For example, Fig 2, above, shows one side view of the table which is identical to the other three side views. As long as this fact is indicated in the specification, you only need to provide the one side view.
  • Plain and unormanented. A view of any side of a design which is plain and unornamented, such as the flat bottom of a speaker, may be omitted. This fact should be noted in the specification. For example, “The speaker cabinet includes a plain and unornamented bottom, which is not shown.”
  • Flat objects. A thin and flat object, such as a quilt, or an embossed design would only require front and rear views. Again, the description should note such fact. For example, “The design is a thin and flat fabric; therefore only front and rear views are shown.
  • Sectional views. A sectional view can clearly bring out elements of the design. A sectional view presented to show functional features, or interior structure that is not part of the claimed design, is neither required nor permitted.
  • Exploded views. If your design has parts that are separable during normal use, you may include an exploded view. Exploded views must contain a bracket to “enclose” or connect the parts. An exploded view should provided in addition to typical views.

exploded view of game (above)

What do the dots and lines mean?

Design patent drawings are technical and stylized. Each element—for example, stippling (use of dots), linear shading (use of lines), and distinctive patterns (for indicating colors)—has a special meaning.

Shading. You have to include shading with your drawings in order to show the shapes and contours of your design. The shading should be applied as if the light source is to the upper left of the drawing, so that the shadows are on the right and bottom sides. The two conventionally accepted types of shading are linear and stippled. Linear shading uses parallel lines—either continuous or broken—whereas stippled shading uses tiny dots. Either type of shading is acceptable. Stipple shading is normally used for representing shadows—that is, surface contour—but it may also be used for representing rough textures, such as foam, coarse fabric, concrete, etc. Linear shading is preferably used for depicting transparent or shiny surfaces, such as glass or polished metal. Linear and stippled shading can be combined in a drawing and used wherever suitable.

Can you provide “informal” drawings? You are allowed to provide informal drawings, such as rough sketches or photographs, with your design patent application, but no one will examine your application until you provide formal drawings. To avoid delay, we recommend that you provide formal drawings in the first place. (The only time you should furnish informal drawings is when you are in a hurry to obtain an early filing date but haven’t had a chance to draft the drawings.)



Photographs of a prototype are often used as the basis of patent drawings. Below are examples of figures based on photos for a table design.

Doing Drawings Yourself

With a reasonable drawing skill or computer graphics knowledge, you can prepare formal drawings for your design patent application. In their book How to Make Patent Drawings Yourself (Nolo), David Pressman and Jack Lo explain how to prepare these drawings using computer software or pen and ink. One chapter is devoted solely to design patent drawing rules. If you prefer to have a professional draft your drawings, you can accomplish this relatively inexpensively (about $80 to $150 per drawing sheet; each sheet may contain one or two figures).

How to Find Someone to Create Your Design Drawings

You can find a suitable patent draftsperson by typing “patent drawing” or “patent drafting”  in your Internet search engine. If you have a prototype, typically, you will furnish digital photographs of various views of your design. If you don’t have a prototype, you’ll need to create basic drawings for the draftsperson to work from.

Designs are commonly depicted in different views—for example, top views, side views, or disassembled views. You should present as many views as are necessary to demonstrate your design. Each view provides another way of “seeing” the design. Each view is given a discrete figure number (abbreviated as “Fig” in patent law).

Using Photographs

The USPTO permits the use of black and white photographs in lieu of drawings. Here’s what the USPTO says:

Black and white. Photographs, including photocopies of photographs, are not ordinarily permitted in utility and design patent applications. The Office will accept photographs in utility and design patent applications, however, if photographs are the only practicable medium for illustrating the claimed invention. For example, photographs or photomicrographs of: electrophoresis gels, blots (e.g., immunological, western, Southern, and northern), auto- radiographs, cell cultures (stained and unstained), histological tissue cross sections (stained and unstained), animals, plants, in vivo imaging, thin layer chromatography plates, crystalline structures, and, in a design patent application, ornamental effects, are acceptable. If the subject matter of the application admits of illustration by a drawing, the examiner may require a drawing in place of the photograph. The photographs must be of sufficient quality so that all details in the photographs are reproducible in the printed patent.”

The USPTO also permits color drawings and photographs in some cases. Here’s what the USPTO says:

Color. The USPTO will accept color drawings or photographs in design patent applications only after the granting of a petition filed under 37 CFR §1.84(a)(2), explaining why the color drawings or photographs are necessary. Any such petition must include the fee set forth in 37 CFR § 1.17(h), three sets of color drawings or photographs, a black and white photocopy that accurately depicts the subject matter shown in the color drawings or photographs, and the specification must contain the following language before the description of the drawings: The file of this patent contains a least one drawing executed in color. Copies of this patent with color drawings will be provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee.”