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Mission: Design Defense

Great design is more than just great looking. It's also valuable, and designers are increasingly turning to design patents to protect their wares from copycats.

Mission: Design Defense

[Illustration by Neil Stevens]

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:

Stella McCartney

"Handbag with chain trim"

Bottega Veneta



"Tank top"

Christian Dior


Alexander Wang

"Stud with circular channels"

A version of this article appeared in the February 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.