Trends in Inventing: Design Patents

Most design patents are based on the work of a single inventor. Although the average “inventor count” per design patent is still under two a time series appears to show that the lone-mind story of inventing continues to shift to a collaborative effort. Two additional points of information: design patents associated with an assignee have a higher average inventor count as do design patents that list a law firm as handling the patent. Part of the story may be that patent attorneys are getting better at ferreting out the true inventor. However, I suspect that the trend does reflect a shift in the process of invention and product development.


  • This data is based on an analysis of all 300,000+ design patents issued since 1976.
  • I’ll redo this graph for utility patents. I suspect that the results will be similar – especially the continued trend toward more inventors per patent.
  • In response to a comment, I parsed the number of inventors by country of assignee. Outcome: Amongst the 10 countries with the most design patent holders, US assignees have the highest average number of inventors per patent. (Non-assigned patents are left out of this analysis). (Click on graph to expand)
  • In response to another comment, I looked at the patent with the most inventors. U.S. Patent No. Des. 563,280 has ten inventors listed. The patent covers the “ornamental design for a car” and is owned by the Chinese auto company Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei Automotive Co. The company manufactures BMW’s Chinese 3 and 5 series. (Image below).

6 thoughts on “Trends in Inventing: Design Patents

  1. 6

    When did the design application drawing rules change? The figures in this patent look like black and white photocopies of a product brochure.

    BTW, if relection drawings are going to become de riguer, my drafting costs passed on to the client are going way up 🙂

  2. 5

    In U.S. Patent No. Des. 563,280 above, is the reflection of the car included as part of the design claim?

  3. 4

    Well, another factor is probably that more contributors to the idea insist on being included as inventors. Gone are the days of company loyalty and letting ur boss decide these things. In a constantly changing job market, there is a greater need for one’s resume to be outstanding. So there is more of an awareness to fight for your name to be included in research publications as well as patents.

  4. 3

    Just out of curiosity, what was the highest number of inventors listed on a design patent? And what was the design(s)?

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