Industrial design is a form of intellectual property (IP) protection that you can register as an innovator in some countries (like Canada, the US, etc.). Industrial design protection has a very narrow field in which you can protect an original design or shape. If, however, someone came up with a change in the functionality of the article or the material used in the process, this wouldn’t be covered by the industrial design.
The most common comparison is the one with the patent, which protects the improvement in functionality. In other words, it’s a functionality vs. appearance situation. To put it even more bluntly, industrial design covers only what’s visible to the eye.
With that in mind and without further ado, here are some of the benefits of industrial design registration.
1. Strengthening your competitive position
Getting an industrial design right means that your competitors will be prohibited by law from copying your design. This way, you are strengthening your competitive position by quite a margin. Keep in mind that a high value of design directly affects the sales of the owner. Therefore, you’re protecting your own ROI in a highly competitive field. Remember that you can always sell industrial design rights, however, without a clear ownership selling is never an option.
From the standpoint of the market as a whole, the fact that you now own the rights to the product, a higher level of competitiveness and innovation is encouraged. After all, your competitors will have to develop their own solutions instead of leaning on your own invention. This encourages creativity and opens up a lot of job opportunities in the R&D department. Overall, using industrial design registration benefits everyone.
2. Affecting customer’s choice
By hiring skilled IP lawyers to get you an exclusive industrial design registration, you’re actually doing your target audience a massive favor. Namely, you’re enabling them to reliably recognize your product on the market (by its design) and make it less likely that they are tricked by numerous copycats. In the fashion industry, design is what makes all the difference. This means that if the competitor’s item appears like yours, it is like yours, there’s no question about it.
Remember, however, that industrial design has a nationwide use. This means that if you’re an international business, you might have to repeat the legal process for every country/market that you intend to penetrate. There’s also the possibility of licensing to take into consideration, as something that you definitely shouldn’t dismiss.
3. What is registrable?
Previously, we gave a brief rundown of what an industrial design is. However, how do you qualify for the registration? The general rule is that the design needs to be new and have an individual character but somehow, both of these terms can be up to interpretation. Once again, this is especially applicable in the fashion and apparel industries (like in the watch industry, for instance).
What new means is that it hasn’t been exposed or available to the public before the day when the priority was claimed. What individual character implies is that the overall impression of the design differs from any earlier design in the field. Navigating this ambiguous terminology is one of the reasons why IP specialists are a necessity.
So, when is the design non-registrable? As we’ve previously mentioned, in the scenario where the parts that are changed are not visible, you cannot register as a unique industrial design. This rule was introduced in order to stop people from making the same design out of a different (similar) material and claiming it as unique and new.
4. The difference in jurisdiction
Depending on the jurisdiction, the process might be quite different. We’ve already mentioned in the introduction that ID registration is available only in some countries. We’ve also mentioned that these protection methods and exclusive rights only apply to a certain area. While some specialists provide support for many different regions, sometimes you’ll have to work with different IP lawyers in order to get full legal coverage.
For instance, if your company is Canada-based, as a part of the Paris Convention, once you register in Canada, you have six months to file internationally, as well. If you file within these six months, your registration date will be the same as the one in your home country. This means that you might have a head start compared to those who file on a later date, even if they did file earlier than you for that specific country. Naturally, this only applies to other countries that signed the Paris Convention.
In the US, on the other hand, industrial design is referred to as a design patent. The meaning is the same, as well as the filing procedure but since the terminology differs, a layman might have an issue getting the grip on these things. This also means that the governing body you’re dealing with in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
5. Use of state emblems
What happens when the user wants to register a unique design that incorporates a protected official symbol or emblem? In some countries, the use of an official coat of honors may be restricted to government departments and state bodies. Sure, there are scenarios in which this can be extended to use in a commercial sense but this is something that will likely have to undergo an evaluation by a government body. Also, there’s sometimes a rule under which the item in question needs to be linked to the country of the emblem (at least thematically).
6. Design fees
Remember that registering a design is not free. You need to pay a fee for each design but the price does go down after the first one. For your first design, you pay a sum and then you have an extra (lower) fee for each subsequent design. Keep in mind that the design protection has an expiry date. Depending on the specific circumstances this can be anywhere from 5 to 25 years. At the renewal, you’ll be asked to pay a fee once again. The fee may also depend on the number of years during which it’s valid.
7. What if you don’t act in time?
While we’ve already discussed what happens if you go for industrial design registration, what happens if you skip this step entirely? First of all, it is quite obvious that without industrial design registration you don’t have exclusive rights in commerce. This means that your competitors have the legal permit to sell products that look just like yours without having to obtain authorization. Previously, we’ve mentioned that registering an industrial design gives you an option to sell this authorization. Therefore, failure to get ID registration means an opportunity loss, as well.
Registering industrial design will help you get dominance over a part of the market and exclude your competitors from doing the same, with this same design. This doesn’t mean that others will never get access to your design, it just means that they will have to pay you in order to do so. It also means that you get to make this selection (other than just benefit from it). Still, in order to make sure that the product in question is eligible, as well as that you’re following an exact legal procedure, make sure that you look for some professional help.