A Design, also called Industrial Design, is intended to protect the ornamental aspect of an article. It must be new and have individual character.
The legal concept of Design protects exclusively the appearance of a product, irrespective of its functionality and technical characteristics. Specifically, a Design is the appearance of the whole or a part of a product, which is derived from the characteristics of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product itself or its ornamentation.
More generally, a Design protects the overall impression created by the product on a user.
Industrial Designs are, for example, the appearance of a piece of jewellery, a telephone terminal (referring exclusively to its shape and not to its functioning), a piece of clothing, a lamp, a vehicle, a household appliance, etc. The concept of Industrial Design also includes drawings, signs, diagrams, icons, etc. which may ornament any product. Industrial Designs also include, for example, images and screens in interfaces, animated characters, as well as objects, characters and environments in video games and in virtual reality contexts. In addition, it is possible to protect by Industrial Design a certain part of an object without limiting the shape of its other parts.
Although there may be some overlap, Design rights can be distinguished from Copyrights -which are intended to protect artistic works and exist without registration- and Trademarks -which are signs, symbols or other means intended to identify a commercial origin and to distinguish the goods and services of one undertaking from those of others.
Like Patents and Utility Models, registered Industrial Designs provide protection for a limited period of time (maximum 25 years in Europe).
Registered Design protection can be obtained quickly and at a reasonable cost. It is a very effective tool for asserting exclusivity against third parties for creations in a way that adds value to products.
A very important feature of Registered Designs is that the scope of protection is defined solely by the graphical representations present in the registration, which may vary in terms of the views chosen (perspectives, orthographic views, sections, partial views, enlarged views), the type of representation (line drawing, renderings, photographs), the presence or not of colour, the selection of the parts of the product to be protected and the optional use of graphical “disclaimers” (graphical indications of the parts of the product that are voluntarily left undefined). In addition, the formal requirements for graphical representations are different depending on the country or region in which the registration is made. Therefore, the advice of a Registered Design specialist is of vital importance in order to obtain adequate protection.
In Europe, there is a form of protection for Unregistered Designs, but with a limited duration of three years from the first disclosure. Moreover, it does not allow action against independently created designs of third parties (only designs resulting from copying can be prosecuted). Despite these important limitations, the Unregistered Design in Europe is of interest for products with an ephemeral life, in particular in the field of fashion.