The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues both ‘utility’ and ‘design’ patents.  A ‘utility’ patent protects how something works (e.g., the better mousetrap).  A ‘design’ patent protects the appearance of the thing (e.g., a mousetrap bait that resembles cheese).  Design patent law in the U.S. is about to change.  The U.S. has taken the steps required to join the “Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs.”  U.S. PTO regulations on the subject have not yet been issued, but the program should go into effect on May 13, 2015.  The two major differences from current practice are (a) a longer life of the design patent of 15 years rather than 14 years, and (b) a relatively simple mechanism to file a single design application with a single set of fees addressing multiple designs and for multiple countries.For all you conspiracy theorists, the World Intellectual Property Organization administers the Hague Agreement.  North Korea and Syria have been member states for years.  Coincidence? 

–R. Yarbrough, Esq.