An industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article. A 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.
Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of products of industry and handicraft: from technical and medical instruments to watches, jewelry, and other luxury items; from housewares and electrical appliances to vehicles and architectural structures; and from textile to leisure goods.
Industrial designs are what make a product attractive and appealing; hence, they add to the commercial value of a product and increase its marketability.
When an industrial design is protected, this helps to ensure a fair return on investment. An effective system of protection also benefits consumers and the public at large, by promoting fair competition and honest trade practices.
Protecting industrial designs also helps economic development, by encouraging creativity in the industrial and manufacturing sectors and contributes to the expansion of commercial activities and the export of national products.
In most countries, an industrial design must be registered in order to be protected under industrial design law. Depending on the particular national law and the kind of design, an industrial design may also be protected as an unregistered design or as a work of art under copyright law.
In some countries, industrial design and copyright protection can exist concurrently. In other countries, they are mutually exclusive: meaning that once the owner chooses one kind of protection, he can no longer invoke the other.
Under certain circumstances an industrial design may also be eligible for protection under unfair competition law, although the conditions of protection and the rights and remedies ensured can be significantly different.