Industrial design protection
The current business environment is characterized by the existence on the market of such a large number of products with similar qualitative characteristics that customers may find it difficult to choose among them.
This highly competitive market encourages both SMEs and larger companies to allocate a great deal of their resources for the development of industrial designs which are capable of distinguishing their products from those of competitors, thus creating more attractive articles capable of seducing customers.
Therefore, industrial designs represent an important asset for companies, and the appearance of the product is one of the key elements that can determine their success or failure. However, once the product is marketed, industrial designs can be easily copied by competitors. In order to avoid these problems, it is essential to ensure their adequate protection, for example by registering them.
THE PROTECTION OF INDUSTRIAL DESIGNS
Unlike patents, which protect the technical features of a product or process, industrial designs protect the external appearance of an item or part of it.
What is protected in an industrial design is the appearance of an article, determined by a combination of its characteristics: lines, colors, shapes, materials, textures, ornaments, etc. Two dimensional designs (lines, colors or motives, etc.) can be protected as well as three-dimensional (e.g. a shape or a surface), the important thing being that they are capable of distinguishing the article in question from a purely visual point of view, irrespective of its technical functions.
Which products can be protected by an industrial design?
There are many products that can be protected under this modality, both industrial and handicraft. Some examples are: website designs, graphic symbols, graphic interfaces, logos, packaging, maps, architectural structures, toys, artistic works, drawings, technical and medical instruments, clocks , jewelry, vehicles, household appliances, electrical appliances, textiles, furniture, lighting equipment, sets of products and complex products.
What does protection consist of?
Industrial designs, similarly to other industrial property rights, confer on the holder an exclusive right to prohibit third parties from exploiting (manufacturing, selling, importing, etc.) products that incorporate or display an identical or similar design.
Industrial design protection systems vary from country to country. Sometimes, copyright may be enough; in other cases, as in the European Union, the so-called “unregistered industrial designs” provide protection as from the date of their publication, without any formal registration being necessary. The main drawback of these systems is that protection is usually weaker and limited in time or reach.
Therefore, and as a general rule, the most effective way to protect a design is to register it with the corresponding office for the geographical area of interest.
What are the requirements for protection for an industrial design and how long does it last?
Apart from the differences existing in each country, it is usually necessary to meet certain requirements in order to enjoy protection:
- The industrial design must be new (i.e. it must not have been previously disclosed to the public);
- It must have an “individual character”, i.e. it has to be original, differ significantly from other already known designs or from “combinations of characteristics of known designs”.
The term for protection may vary depending on a number of factors but, in general, a registered industrial design usually provides protection for at least 10 years, although they can normally be extended for successive renewable periods.
Why should I protect my industrial designs?
Industrial designs can represent a significant intangible asset for both SMEs and large companies. They can be a key success factor when marketing a product. The more successful it is, the higher the risk of being copied.
If you do not protect your industrial designs, you expose yourself to the following major risks:
- By not having an exclusive right, in the event that a competitor sells or imports a product that includes an almost identical copy of your industrial design, you would not have any legal instrument to prevent it.
- It implies a market loss for your product. The copy of your industrial design will normally be offered at a lower price, as competitors do not need to recover the investment.
- It also affects the reputation of your company and its products.
If you register an industrial design, the main advantages are:
- You get a protection that is usually fast and economical (compared to other investments involving an industrial design), especially if you register several designs at the same time.
- You obtain exclusive rights that allow you to prohibit third parties from commercializing, exploiting or copying the industrial design for a certain period of time, thus guaranteeing the return of the investments involved in the development of the industrial design.
- You get an eventual source of income in the form of licenses or by assigning your exclusive rights on the industrial design to a third party.
- It helps to strengthen a company’s brand, especially if industrial designs are important elements of it. Depending on the case, it is possible to combine industrial design registration with other industrial property rights.
- Industrial designs constitute business assets that can increase the market value of a company and its products.
Have you created an industrial design that you would like to protect? Please contact us and we will advise you how to do it and send you a quotation for your approval.
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