The world of sneakerheads and designer shoe aficionados has been growing for some time, and many people have been inspired to come up with their own shoe designs.

It’s one thing to simply sketch out a shoe idea, but if you actually want to commercialize a shoe idea you will need legal protection.

There are two types of legal protection that you can get for a shoe design: patent protection and copyright protection.

Most shoe designs require patent protection, though some may only need copyright protection.

Read on to learn more about patenting shoes.

Types of Patents for Shoes

There are two types of shoe patents: utility patents and design patents.

If you have a new, functional idea for a shoe design that changes how the shoe functions, you need a utility patent.

For example, if you come up with a new type of basketball shoe that allows players to jump higher, you will need a utility patent.

On the other hand, you only need a design patent if your shoe does not contain any new technology and is unique due to its look.

It is possible for a shoe to have both a patented design and patented technology, but this would require two separate patents (one utility patent and one design patent).

Most small shoe design companies and sole proprietors get design patents, as the level of research and development needed to get a utility patent for a shoe is often only available to larger companies.

Using a Design Patent for a Shoe Idea

If your shoe does not contain any new technology or features but has a unique and unprecedented look, you need to get a design patent.

There are some restrictions on design patents that your design must meet if the application is to be approved.

The shoe’s design must not affect its form or function in any way.

It must be made in a way that other shoe manufacturers already use.

If your shoe does include both a new look and new tech, the new tech needs to be covered by a utility patent.

Issues That Arise When Applying for a Shoe Patent

The bar to entry into the shoe market can be quite high, especially for shoe companies that are looking to develop new technology rather than simply creating new looks.

One of the reasons that the bar to entry in this industry is so high is the expense of obtaining patents. Also, it takes a long time to get a patent. 

Getting a Shoe Patent is Costly

The expense of getting a patent for a shoe idea is prohibitive for many individuals and even some small companies.

While design patents are more affordable, both types are expensive.

The expenses associated with getting a shoe patent include:

  • At least $1,500 in attorney fees for a design patent or $2,500 for a utility patent
  • Roughly $1,000 in government fees (more if you expedite the application)

Getting a Shoe Patent Takes a Long Time

The time it takes to get a patent for a shoe idea is as big an impediment as the cost for many small companies.

The USPTO takes, on average, 20 months to review a patent application.

There is an expedited option available.

An expedited patent application can still take up to a year to review. Also, it costs more than a standard patent application.

Do I Really Need to Patent My Shoe Idea?

The challenges involved in getting a patent for a shoe idea may have left you wondering whether you even need to get a patent.

If you have created a new design or a new type of shoe, you will eventually need to get a patent.

However, you certainly don’t need to get a patent as soon as you come up with the idea.

You are only required to file for a patent within 12 months of publicly disclosing your idea.

Most shoe designers will simply refrain from disclosing an idea until they are ready to apply for a patent.

This may be years after they originally came up with their idea.

It is also possible that your design only needs copyright protection rather than patent protection.

Copyright Protection for Designs Applied to Shoes

It has become popular for designers to simply paint or draw their designs right on the shoes they offer.

The shoes they create are manufactured by another company, and all the designers to is put their design on this blank canvas.

If you are not planning on manufacturing the shoes yourself, you may only need copyright protection.

Copyright protection is automatic and does not require an application.

Keep in mind that you will only have copyright protection on the design that you’ve applied to the shoe, not on the shoe itself.

How Many Shoes Can I Protect With One Patent?

You can only protect one shoe idea per patent.

This means that a shoe that incorporates two different new technologies will need two utility patents.

You can include variations on your idea when you submit the patent application, but this could make it harder to get the application approved.

Copyright protection, however, will protect every brand-new design that you apply to a pair of shoes.

The Steps for Getting a Shoe Patent

Determine the Type of Patent You Need

The first thing that you need to do when you want to obtain a shoe patent is determine what kind of patent you need.

If your shoe idea is only new because of how it looks, you need a design patent.

If your shoe doesn’t have a new look but does contain new technology, you need a utility patent.

If your shoe has a new design and new technology, you need both.

Search for Similar Patents

The USPTO often denies patent applications because they are too similar to existing patents. You may have come up with an idea independently that you don’t realize has already been patented. You can save yourself a lot of time and money by performing an online patent search. 

Hire a Patent Attorney

It is necessary to hire a patent attorney.

Attorneys know have to navigate the complex patent laws and they can help you perform a more thorough patent search to ensure that no one has already patented your idea.

Look for a patent attorney with extensive experience.

Complete & Submit the Application

Your attorney will help you complete the patent application and submit it to the USPTO.

You will need to pay any applicable government fees at this time.

You will also need to choose between a standard application and the more expensive but quicker expedited application.

Wait for the USPTO

Now that you’ve submitted the application, all you can do is wait.

Be prepared for the USPTO to contact you with questions about your idea.

Answering these questions promptly and thoroughly will increase the chances of your application being approved.

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