What are Industrial Designs and why do we Need Them?


You must have seen the design of the coke contour bottle, Piaggio vespa scooter, iPod/iPhone/iPad/iMac, shape of the Volkswagen Beetle or Mini Cooper Cars sometime in your life. All these products have designs that are unique and simply by looking at them from distant places even, you can identify them. All these are examples of industrial designs and are proprietary to specific company or individual who made them. Other companies can’t use these designs to promote their own products and doing so could lead to infringements and the infringers would have to pay a heavy price for this.

Since, industrial designs are proprietary designs and much of the success of their businesses depend on them no third party can copy them. Like patents and trademarks these are industrial assets that help companies create brand awareness among their consumers. So, next time if you wish to distinguish your products from other competing products to let consumers identify your products instantly then create a design that is unique and novel and go for filing industrial design application. If everything go well you might be granted with a proprietary design that is exclusive to you and you can then exclude others from using it.

In layman terms, Industrial designs are the features of a product that makes it more appealing to the consumer eye-balls. It can be anything like the pattern of a knitted sweater, design of a bottle, contour of a car hood, the shape of a computer monitor etc. Distinctive and attractive features like these give products a competitive edge.

Legally, an industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article and can be defined as any shape, configuration, color, surface pattern, or line (or a combination of these) which when applied to a functional article increases aesthetics, and improves the visual appearance of the design. Industrial designs may either be two-dimensional or three-dimensional article. In a legal sense, an industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article.

However, not all designs are granted industrial design protection and you will have to come-up with designs that have certain properties and characteristics and only those designs that meet these requirements can be granted these protections. The parameters on the basis of which the credibility of industrial designs judged are:

  • Design must relate to shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation of the article
  • It ought to be original and no one else has used it in past
  • It should be novel or new
  • It has to be non-obvious means people with reasonable expertise will have to put some extra mental efforts to make it
  • The design could be applied to a functional article
  • The design should be visible on a finished article
  • There should be no prior publication or disclosure of the design

Also read: What is the Difference between Utility and Design Patent?

Difference between Patents, Copyrights and Industrial Designs

Patents, copyrights, trade-marks and industrial designs though all fall under the category of intellectual property they are not the same and can’t be used interchangeably. The below table could help you understand things that differentiate them from each other.

 PatentsCopyrightsIndustrial Designs
Nature of protectionAny technical invention and enhancementAny literary works like music, poems, or artworksOrnamental or aesthetical appearance of an article
Duration of protection20 years from the priority dateLifetime of the creator plus 60 years10 years from the date of filing and can be renewed in every 5 years
When should be appliedBefore launching the product in the marketAnytimeBefore launching the design in the market
How to maintainFiling fee is paid before grantFee is not requiredFee is required after 10 years while renewing
Table 1: Difference between Patents, Copyrights and Industrial Designs

Also read: Patent Agent: Requirement for Patent Application

What cannot be protected as industrial designs?

As we discussed earlier that industrial designs are important for those companies that are willing to give a unique identity to their products and wish to distinguish the aesthetic appearance of the product from other competing products in the market. However, the grant is not given to every design that is intending to enjoy it. Apart from this, not all products are granted industrial design protection and some are even forbidden. Here is a list of designs that we can’t protect as industrial designs:

  • Designs that are opposite to public moral values
  • Designs of books, certificates, jackets, calendars, maps and plan cards, forms and other documents are not protectable
  • Protection can’t be sought for patterns of dresses, medals, greeting cards, leaflets, , postcards, stamps
  • Designs that include flags, emblems or signs of any country can’t be protected
  • Industrial Designs of integrated circuits are not protectable

Also read: How to Determine the Patent Validity?

Why should I protect designs?

Industrial designs are a kind of value addition that we put in our products/packaging of products to make it stand apart from the crowd. These are a kind of IP and could be one of the greatest assets in terms of building brand identification and reputation. We need some inputs and efforts to create them and thus once granted protection we can use them to exclude others from using it or taking unlawful advantages from it.

So, one question that pops up in our mind is why one should protect industrial designs in the first place.

Below are some of the reasons that will underline the reason of protecting industrial designs.

  • It improves value-adding aspect of your product
  • It helps companies create brand(s) for their products
  • It increases the marketability of the product
  • It protect your creation from third parties’ use
  • It stops illegitimate products from destroying the brand’s efficacy and safety
  • Encourages creativity in the manufacturing and industrial sectors

Thus, as an individual or a company if you wish to create unique identity of your products then industrial design could be the best way to achieve those. However, a well- crafted industrial design requires heavy investments in terms of time, energy and resources.

Since, you are adding some value to your product with these designs and much of the success of your business is going to depend on them, it is important to protect them at the earliest so that no third party can take unlawful advantages of your designs. You can achieve this either through in-house means or hiring some third party that help companies protect industrial designs.

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