An industrial design is the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article. The design may consist of 3-D features, such as the shape of an article, or two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color.
Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of products of industry and handicrafts such as technical and medical instruments, watches, jewelry, houseware, electrical appliances, vehicles, architectural structures, textile designs, leisure goods and other luxury items.
To be protected under most national laws, an industrial design must appeal to the eye. This means that an industrial design is primarily of an aesthetic nature, and does not protect any technical features of the article to which it is applied.
Protection of Industrial Designs
- In most countries, an industrial design must be registered in order to be protected under industrial design law. As a general rule, to be registrable, the design must be “new” or “original”. Different countries have varying definitions of such terms, as well as variations in the registration process itself. Generally, “new” means that no identical or very similar design is known to have existed before. Once a design is registered, a registration certificate is issued.
- Depending on the particular national law and the kind of design, an industrial design may also be protected as a work of art under copyright law. In which case registration is not required.
- In some countries, industrial design and copyright protection can exist concurrently. In other countries, they are mutually exclusive: once the owner chooses one kind of protection, he can no longer invoke the other.
- In certain countries, an industrial design may also be protected against imitation under unfair competition law.