What are Industrial Designs?
Industrial designs (called “Design Patents” in the United States) protect the shape, pattern or ornamental features of a manufactured article. Industrial designs are protected by obtaining an industrial design registration (design patent) in that country and have a term of 10 years (14 years for US design patents).
Registerable Subject Matter
An industrial design is limited to the aesthetic features of the article that appeal to, and are judged solely by, the eye. The registration may also prevent the use by others from selling articles having designs which are substantially similar to the registered industrial design (or design patent).
Excluded Subject Matter
An industrial design is not permitted to cover aspects of the article which are dictated by the way the article functions. Similarly, methods or processes of constructing that article are also not registerable. Either of these aspects are more properly protected by a patent.
In Canada and the United States, similar to patents (often called “utility patents” in the United States), an industrial design application must be filed within one year of the first publication of the design or sale of the article having the design applied to it. In many other countries, a design is not registerable if it has been disclosed to the public (for example by describing, selling, publicly displaying or distributing it) before a design application is filed. Therefore, in practice, a design application should be filed before the design is published or any articles having the design applied thereto are sold.