I'm a qualified industrial designer (BA hons. Industrial Engineering)
and in my opinion unfortunately you can't. However I'm not a patent
expert and as researchers we always furnish an answer with reputable
researched resources than rely on personal judgement alone.
Excerpt from the Derwent Information web site, who describe themselves
"...the worlds leading patent and scientific information provider. We
help top Fortune 500 companies stay ahead of their competitors by
providing them with key technical, scientific and business information
drawn from patents, research journals and conference proceedings...
...The worlds top companies trust Derwents patent information
- our global coverage ensures patent searches are comprehensive
- we add intellectual value to our patent information - saving
searching time and money
- our customer service team can offer expert guidance at every stage
of patent searching
- all major patent offices, plus top FT100 companies, use our patent
Corporate Profile, Derwent.com
They cover the States, Europe, and Asia
( http://www.derwent.com/contact/ )
Excerpt from their web site showing their viewpoint:
"The rules governing what is "patentable" vary slightly from one
country to another. Most inventions are new machines, products or
industrial processes, and these generally can be patented. [Note the
following sentence] However aesthetic creations, or scientific
discoveries without specified application, cannot be patented. Things
that exist in nature, which are discovered and not invented, machines
that defy the laws of nature, scientific theories or mathematical
methods cannot be patented...
...In general a patent will be granted for an invention so long as it
- is new or "novel": the invention must never have been made in public
in any way, anywhere, before the date on which the application for a
patent is filed.
- involves an inventive or "unobvious" step: this step must not be
obvious to others with good knowledge and experience of the subject of
- is capable of industrial/useful application: an invention must be
capable of being made or used in some kind of industry
"What is a Patentable Invention?" Derwent Information, 2002
The unpatentable 'aesthetic creation' is echoed by
The Irish Patent Office
(paragraph "Discoveries and aesthetic creations")
European Patent Office
(paragraph "Further exclusions from patentability"
mit.edu "Is my Idea Patentable?"
"Being new isn't enough. Being different isn't enough. For your
invention to be patentable, it also must be useful. The invention must
perform a function, do what you say it does, and benefit society in
However you could trademark the shape instead.
For example Rickett and Coleman argued that their Jiff lemon juice
which was packaged in a plastic yellow lemon shaped container was
their trademark. They even stopped another manfacturer from producing
lemon juice in a lemon shaped container as shoppers would mistake
their competitors product for theirs and dilute their brand. The House
of Lords (UK) ruled it was a passing-off case. So if you have a
specific use and market for your shape it 'might' benefit at least
from brand protection. If a shampoo manufacturer put their shampoo
into a lemon shaped container this wouldn't be 'passing-off' as
clearly the product is in a different market segment.
Reference this thread at cni.org
Please do not disclose any specifics of your ideas here, as you are
probably aware, once your ideas are in the public domain, they are no
longer patentable (if you intend to do so or have a different angle on
your original idea).
"what is patentable"
I hope that helps, if you need any clarification of the answer just