To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
Thomas Edison

Industrial Design – a Powerful Tool for the Protection of Your Products

Alongside Patents and Trademarks, which protect inventions and brands, the Industrial design is an equally important IP right that can contribute to a business’ commercial success. Industrial design protects the appearance of the whole or part of a product, features of the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation. A very wide variety of products can be protected with an industrial design – clothes and fashion accessories, furniture, packaging and labels, logos, typefaces, ornaments, web pages, software interfaces and many others. In order for an object to be eligible for protection as an industrial design, the law requires the design to be novel and to have individual character. To be new, generally the design must not have been shown to the public before the filing of an application for registration. In order for the design to have individual character, it must produce on the informed user, a different overall impression than that of other existing designs. The registered industrial design gives exclusive rights to its owner to use the design, and to prohibit third parties from using or copying it. Its validity is up to 25 years. The protection afforded is territorial – it could be national (for one country) or regional (for the EU or Benelux), and there is also an international system (Hague system) which makes the protection of industrial designs in multiple countries easier to accomplish. Compared to the trademark, the design gives a lower level of protection. Unlike trademarks, designs cannot be renewed after expiry of 25 year validity term. What are the advantages of the industrial design then? First, the industrial design can protect objects which are incapable of being trademarks. For example, trademarks cannot be descriptive of the goods and services for which they are registered or refer to the quality of these goods. To illustrate - the words “the best tea in the world” cannot ordinarily be registered as trademark for the goods “tea”. However a label with these words, having original design, can be protected as industrial design. This would give the owner of the design a monopoly over this particular label and which products it is used on. Similarly, industrial design can protect products which cannot be patented. For example, an automotive headlamp cannot be patented as an invention, if it’s technically similar to the already known headlights. At the same time, as long as the appearance of the headlamp is new and has individual character, it can be registered as an industrial design and in that way, the owner will have monopoly over headlamps of that particular appearance. Other benefits of the industrial design are its lower price, as well as the simplified and quick procedure for registration. In the EU, the application fees are almost four times lower than those for a trademark, and registration can be obtained for less than a month (compared to at least 6 months for a trademark). This enables businesses to quickly and effectively launch their products on the market, with the confidence of having the necessary legal protection. This is particularly useful for businesses with products whose exterior changes periodically, such as clothes, fashion accessories and consumer goods. In addition, industrial design can also effectively protect the marketing materials for the products, such as labels, packaging, logos, web pages and others. If you think that a product of yours could be protected as an industrial design, it is important to consult an intellectual property specialist, who will help you analyse the situation, choose the best way forward and assist you with the administrative requirements. The right strategy depends on the particularities of your business and the situation at hand. Contact “Dr. Emil Benatov & Partners” for expert services in the field of industrial designs in the EU, Bulgaria, Ukraine and internationally.
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