Formerly a little-used tool, the design patent covers the territory between a utility patent and a trademark—something like a copyright for decoration. (Apple v. Samsung is a recent high-profile design patent case.) But filing one is tricky: The patented design must be both unique and distinctive. In honor of fashion week, some recent successes, as described in their patents:
"Handbag with chain trim"
"Stud with circular channels"
A version of this article appeared in the February 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.