Protecting User Interfaces (UIs) and Graphic User Interfaces (GUIs) – February 9, 2022

On February 9, 2022, IPLAC’s U.S. Patents Committee had an engaging discussion and presentation on Graphical User Interfaces and how to protect them in the United States and abroad.  The virtual panel, including Tracy Durkin, Dunstan Barnes, and Jason Skinder, was moderated by Yoni Torchman.  The discussion highlighted the differences between utility patent and design patents for User Interfaces and Graphical User Interfaces.  One of the primary points touched upon during the panel was how a utility patent coves the concept more than the design, and the design patent covers a specific implementation more closely.

The panelists discussed how for utility patent applications, protecting a UI can be greatly improved by adding a decision box in a flow diagram, indicative of the computer having to do something with an input received.  Jason Skinder pointed out that only when the computer is doing some kind of determining, and a result or change occurs, is the utility more likely to be patentable.  Additionally Tracy Durkin and Dunstan Barnes pointed out that, though counter-intuitive, in some cases, a more narrow patent scope in a design patent may actually be more protective.  The panel recommended that utility patent applications, especially for new companies and startups, cover the differentiator between new technologies and interfaces.

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