Throwback Friday - Prince's Purpleaxxe Patent

By: Jim Dossey, MS, MBA, JD -

In 1994, Prince obtained a design patent on a design for a keyboard that looks like a guitar (commonly known as a "keytar"). The instrument, known as the "Purpleaxxe," is registered to Prince R. Nelson, aka Prince, aka "the artist formerly known as Prince", aka that weird symbol, under patent number D349127.

In the United States, inventors can obtain design, plant, or utility patents to protect their inventions. A design patent protects the ornamental design for a functional item (i.e. "the way it looks"). Apple, for example, owns several design patents for the design of its iPhone smartphones. Whereas the term of patent protection for plant and utility patents lasts 20 years from the filing date of the patent application, the term for a design patent is 14 years from the date the patent issues.

Evidently, Prince never wielded the Purpleaxxe himself… he made his then keyboard player Tommy Elm play it. Adding insult to injury, Tommy Elm later renamed himself Tommy Barbarella and now plays in Justin Bieber's band.

Given that the patent protection for the Purpleaxxe ran out in 2008, the unique keytar design is now part of the public domain. You are now free to create your own Purpleaxxe!

patent patent

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