Industrial design rights are intellectual property rights that protect the visual design of objects that are not purely utilitarian. An industrial design consists of the creation of a shape, configuration or composition of pattern or color, or combination of pattern and color in three dimensional form containing aesthetic value. An industrial design can be a two- or three-dimensional pattern used to produce a product, industrial commodity or handicraft.
Under the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, a WIPO-administered treaty, a procedure for an international registration exists. An applicant can file for a single international deposit with WIPO or with the national office in a country party to the treaty. The design will then be protected in as many member countries of the treaty as desired. Design rights started in the United Kingdom in 1787 with the Designing and Printing of Linen Act and have expanded from there.
India's Design Act, 2000 was enacted to consolidate and amend the law relating to protection of design and to comply with the articles 25 and 26 of TRIPS agreement. The new act, (earlier Patent and Design Act, 1911 was repealed by this act) now defines "design" to mean only the features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornament, or composition of lines or colours applied to any articlewhether in two or three dimensional, or in both forms, by any industrial process or means, whether manualal or mechanical or chemical, separate or combimed, which in the finished article appeal to and are judged solely bt the eye; but does not include any mode or principle of construction.
Canada's industrial design act affords ten years of protection to industrial designs that are registered; there is no protection if the design is not registered. The Industrial Design Act (R.S., c. I-8) defines "design" or "industrial design" to mean 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.
During the existence of an exclusive right, no person can "make, import for the purpose of trade or business, or sell, rent, or offer or expose for sale or rent, any article in respect of which the design is registered." The rule also applies to kits and substantial differences are in reference to previously published designs.
See main article: Industrial design rights in the European Union. Registered and unregistered Community designs are available which provide a unitary right covering the European Community. Protection for a registered Community design is for up to 25 years, subject to the payment of renewal fees every five years. The unregistered Community design lasts for three years after a design is made available to the public and infringement only occurs if the protected design has been copied.
In addition to the design protection available under Community designs, UK law provides its own national registered design right and an unregistered design right. The unregistered right, which exists automatically if the requirements are met can last for up to 15 years. The registered design right can last up to 25 years subject to the payment of maintenance fees.
Article 1 of the Japanese Design Law states: "This law was designed to protect and utilize designs and to encourage creation of designs in order to contribute to industrial development". The protection period in Japan is 15 years from the day of registration.
U.S. design patents last fourteen years from the date of grant and cover the ornamental aspects of utilitarian objects. Objects that lack a use beyond that conferred by their appearance or the information they convey, may be covered by copyright -- a form of intellectual property of much longer duration that exists as soon as a qualifying work is created. In some circumstances, rights may also be acquired in trade dress, but trade dress protection is akin to trademark rights and requires that the design have source significance or "secondary meaning." It is useful only to prevent source misrepresentations; trade dress protection cannot be used to prevent others from competing on the merits.