From what I have understood so far,

a design patent is a form of legal protection granted to the ornamental design of a functional item. Design patents are a type of industrial design right.


a utility patent is a patent that covers the creation of a new or improved — and useful — product, process or machine. A utility patent, also known as a “patent for invention,” prohibits other individuals or companies from making, using or selling the invention without authorization.

In the case of data visualization, the whole point of the visualization is to make a dataset consumable. To me, this is in sync with the utility definition (as it is a method of consuming data). However, it achieves this by using graphical (ornamental) design.

Basically, with data visualization, it seems like the ornamental design is the utility.

In this case, if I were to invent a new kind of data visualization, what type of patent would it be.

  • Eurpean patent convention art 52: European patents shall be granted for any inventions, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are susceptible of industrial application. (2) The following in particular shall not be regarded as inventions within the meaning of paragraph 1: (a) discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods; (b) aesthetic creations; (c) schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers; (d) **presentations of information. **
    – user18033
    Apr 10, 2018 at 14:31
  • Therefore, is it purely presentation? Are you interested in the US (only)? Is there a technical benefit of the presentation?
    – user18033
    Apr 10, 2018 at 14:32
  • "An exception would be if the arrangement or manner of presentation can be shown to have a credible technical effect (T 1741/08, T 1143/06) (Guidelines G‑II, 3.7 – November 2015 version)." epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/caselaw/2016/e/…
    – user18033
    Apr 10, 2018 at 14:33
  • Quite possibly both. I think this gets tricky since it is most likely software based. I'll defer to the actual patent attorneys.
    – Eric S
    Apr 10, 2018 at 19:16

1 Answer 1


This is an answer assuming US patent law. A design patent is for the ornamental appearance of an item of manufacture. An example would be a vase with a specific color, shape, and artistic design. You are not talking about an item with a single, specific, particular look, but a way of taking data and using it to draw a picture. If you used your technique on specific data to make a design that you were going to imprint on a towel, the towel could be covered by a design patent. But how you came up with the design would be irrelevant to that design's patentability.

If do a search on google patents you will find System and method for 4D reconstruction and visualization US6169817B1, Method and system for the interactive visualization and examination of data US6400366B1 and many other similar things patented. Unlike in the EPO, the US doesn't require a technical effect or a technical solution to a technical problem (although you might have one).

  • +1 for finding example patents.
    – Eric S
    Apr 11, 2018 at 13:16

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