What Is A Design Patent?
In general terms, a “design patent” protects the way an article looks (the "ornamental appeareance") rather than the way an article is used or works. The ornamental appearance for an article includes its shape/configuration or surface ornamentation applied to the article, or both.
As such, design patents are more reasonable priced and still allow you to legally claim "patent pending" while the application is pending at the US Patent & Trademark Office (PTO). However, the scope of coverage is different from utility patents and is focused on the appearance (assuming you can get a utility patent, which is much more difficult).
Why File A Design Patent?
Many startups choose to file both utility and design patent applications as the design patent is less expensive to file and more likely to get approved, and will likely be granted more quickly. A quality design patent may be a real asset to raise investment or protect one's products from competitors, as utility patents often take 2 to 3 years just to get to the examination (although fast-tracking is always an option.