An industrial design can be a two- or three-dimensional pattern used to produce a product, industrial commodity or handicraft. In a legal sense, an industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article.
An industrial design may consist of three dimensional features, such as the shape of an article, or two dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color.
In principle, the owner of a registered industrial design or of a design patent has the right to prevent third parties from making, selling or importing articles bearing or embodying a design which is a copy, or substantially a copy, of the protected design, when such acts are undertaken for commercial purposes.
Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of products of industry and handicraft items: from packages and containers to furnishing and household goods, from lighting equipment to jewelry, and from electronic devices to textiles. Industrial designs may also be relevant to graphic symbols, graphical user interfaces (GUI), and logos.
In most countries, an industrial design needs to be registered in order to be protected under industrial design law as a “registered design”. In some countries, industrial designs are protected under patent law as “design patents”.
Industrial design laws in some countries grant – without registration – time- and scope limited protection to so-called “unregistered industrial designs”.
Depending on the particular national law and the kind of design, industrial designs may also be protected as works of art under copyright law.
Industrial design rights are granted for a limited period. The duration of the protection of industrial designs varies from country to country, but it amounts at least to 10 years. In many countries, the total duration of protection is divided into successive renewable periods.
Industrial design rights are usually enforced in a court, generally on the initiative of the owner of the rights, as provided for by the applicable law. The remedies and penalties vary from country to country and could be civil (injunctions to desist from an infringement, payment of damages, etc.), criminal or administrative.
An industrial design right protects only the appearance or aesthetic features of a product, whereas a patent protects an invention that offers a new technical solution to a problem. In principle, an industrial design right does not protect the technical or functional features of a product. Such features could, however, potentially be protected by a patent. Find out more about patents.
Industrial designs make a product attractive and appealing to customers. Design drives consumer’s choice: the appearance of a product can be a key factor in the consumer’s purchase decision. In other words, the success or failure of a product may rest, at least partially, on how it looks. Industrial designs can therefore be very important for both small- and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and larger companies alike, regardless of their sector of activity.
The protection of industrial designs should form an integral part of any business strategy. The main reasons to protect industrial designs are the following:
Return on investments: Protection contributes to obtaining a return on investments made in creating and marketing attractive and innovative products.
Exclusive rights: Protection provides exclusive rights for at least 10 years, so as to prevent or stop others from commercially exploiting or copying the industrial design.
Strengthen brands: Industrial designs can be an important element of a company’s brand. Protecting industrial designs contributes to protecting a company’s brand.
Opportunity to license or sell: Protection provides rights that may be sold or licensed to another enterprise, which will then be a source of income for the owner of the rights.
Positive image: Protection helps convey a positive image of a company, since industrial designs are business assets which may increase the market value of a company and its products.
Reward: Protecting industrial designs rewards and encourages creativity.
If any businessman doesn’t protect his industrial design(s) then it follows that you may not enjoy exclusive rights to them. Consequently, his competitors may take a product to market, incorporating your industrial design, without getting your permission.
So if a competitor or anyone else makes, sells or imports products bearing or embodying a design which is a copy (or substantially copy) of his industrial design without his consent, you will have no legal means to fight them. Moreover, it is likely that copies of the industrial design will be sold at a lower price as competitors do not have to recoup the investments made in the creative process. This could reduce your market share for the product in question and be harmful both to his firm’s reputation and to that of his products.
(This article is a segment of author’s research on “INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS IN BANGLADESH: CURRENT STATUS WITH PROBLEMS AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT” for the degree of MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY, Under International Culture University. This article is published for educational purpose only, plagiarism is strictly prohibited)