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What is an industrial design?

Many of us have heard about copyright and copyrighted material but those are not the only intellectual properties that can be protected. Other possible protected intellectual properties include patents, trademarks, and industrial designs.

Are industrial designs the same as copyrights?

Industrial designs have to be differentiated from copyrights, patents and trademarks. Whereas those other protected intellectual properties involve inventions or improvements to an existing invention, words, sounds, literary, artistic and musical works, industrial designs are the visual characteristics of shape, pattern, ornament and configuration or a combination of some or all of these.

The federal Industrial Designs Act of Canada defines a design or industrial design as “features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament and any combination of those features that, in a finished article, appeal to and are judged solely by the eye.”

In other words, industrial designs are about the look of things, the visual features of a finished product.

What exactly do visual features of a finished product mean?

It means things like the design of a spoon, wallpaper pattern and the design of a bottle.

It has to be a design that is applied to a useful product. So, for instance, a painting would not be considered an industrial design but rather a work of art that would have to be registered and protected under copyright. An industrial design cannot just be functional; it should be a combination of design and functionality.

However, the pattern of a sweater may be protected under industrial design because it’s not only pleasing to look at but the sweater has a useful function as it functions as clothing to the user.

So patterns could be considered industrial designs. Ornamentation could be included as well if, once again, it’s on an article that is useful. For example, the ornamentation of a spoon is likely considered an industrial design.

Did you know items classified as industrial designs may also be protected?

The Industrial Design Act states that an exclusive right to an industrial design can be obtained by registering it. That means nobody can copy your design once you have registered it.

If you don’t, someone may copy the design without your protection but due to lack of registration, there will be little you can do about it.

If you register your design, you will have exclusive rights to it for up to ten years and due to the registration nobody is allowed to copy your design during that period.

However, if someone did infringe upon your design then you have to hurry to file legal action because you have to take action within three years of the alleged infringement.

What cannot be registered as an industrial design?

There are certain things that do not fall under industrial designs, such as:

  • A method of construction;
  • An idea (which is usually protected under patent);
  • The actual materials used in making something (for example, the material a protective mask is made of)
  • The function of something (again that is usually covered by patents)

If you want to register your design and you want to know whether it should fall under industrial design protection consult a patent agent and/or lawyer.

Read more:

What is an industrial design?

Industrial Design Act