Internationally, an industrial design is the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article. The design may consist of three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article, or of two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color. In most countries, an industrial design must be registered in order to be protected under industrial design law. Design registrations are similar in some ways to design patents in the United States.
As a general rule, to be registrable, the design must be â€œnewâ€? or â€œoriginal”. Once a design is registered, a registration certificate is issued. Following that, the term of protection is generally five years, with the possibility of further periods of renewal up to, in most cases, 15 years.
Depending on the particular national law and the kind of design, an industrial design may also be protected as a work of art under copyright law. Under certain circumstances an industrial design may also be protectable under unfair competition law.
A procedure for an international registration exists under the WIPO-administered treaty, the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs. An applicant can file a single international deposit either with the WIPO or the national office of a country which is party to the treaty. The design will then be protected in as many member countries of the treaty as the applicant wishes.