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. 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 house wares and electrical appliances to vehicles ; from textile designs to leisure goods. To be protected under most national laws, an industrial design must be non-functional. This means that an industrial design is primarily of an aesthetic nature and any technical features of the article to which it is applied are not protected.
When an industrial design is protected, the owner – the person or entity that has registered the design – is assured an exclusive right against unauthorized copying or imitation of the design by third parties. 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, encouraging creativity, and promoting more aesthetically attractive products.
Protecting industrial designs helps economic development, by encouraging creativity in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, as well as in traditional arts and crafts. They contribute to the expansion of commercial activities and the export of national products. Industrial designs can be relatively simple and inexpensive to develop and protect. They are reasonably accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises as well as to individual artists and craftsmen, in both industrialized and developing countries.