patent law

TESLA’s Semi Truck Design Patent

Companies such as Rivian and Nikola are making a name for themselves by developing electric vehicles in the van and semi-truck space. Tesla, which holds the largest market share in electric vehicles, also has its own plans for delivery vehicles.

Tesla has recently obtained design patents relating to a semi-truck. A design patent protects ornamental features of a product. In a design patent, the solid lines form the ornamental design feature that are protected. The broken lines are not part of the ornamental design.

Here, Tesla’s design patents USD860056S1 and USD844521S1 provides a peak at a Tesla semi-truck. USD860056S1 is directed at the entire ‘Cab with elevated roof’. This means that the ornamental design of the cab, as a whole (in the solid lines), is patented.

USD844521S1 appears to be related to the same semi-truck, but here the ornamental design is limited to the side panel, as shown below in solid lines.

Design patents can be a cheap and relatively easy way to protect a product when trying to prevent others from making or selling a product that looks like your product. Unlike utility patents (generally what is meant when people discuss a patent), design patents do not protect how a product behaves or works. A trade-off is, however, that design patents are typically much cheaper and easier to obtain. In many cases, one can file design and utility patents for the same product (e.g., a smartphone may have design patents and utility patents).

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