World Intellectual Property Organization

Industrial Designs

What is an industrial design?

In a legal sense, an industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article.

An industrial design may consist of three dimensional features, such as the shape of an article, or two dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color.

In principle, the owner of a registered industrial design or of a design patent has the right to prevent third parties from making, selling or importing articles bearing or embodying a design which is a copy, or substantially a copy, of the protected design, when such acts are undertaken for commercial purposes.

Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of products of industry and handicraft items: from packages and containers to furnishing and household goods, from lighting equipment to jewelry, and from electronic devices to textiles. Industrial designs may also be relevant to graphic symbols, graphical user interfaces (GUI), and logos.

In most countries, an industrial design needs to be registered in order to be protected under industrial design law as a “registered design”. In some countries, industrial designs are protected under patent law as “design patents ”.

Industrial design laws in some countries grant – without registration – time- and scope limited protection to so-called “unregistered industrial designs”.

Depending on the particular national law and the kind of design, industrial designs may also be protected as works of art under copyright law.

Designs in action

Design is where function meets form. From tables to telephones, industrial design is one of the key factors that attracts us to a product, or leads us to prefer using one product over another.

(Photo: Procter&Gamble)

Designing for business success

A top manager at Procter and Gamble talks to WIPO Magazine about the role of industrial design in a successful product range.


Design and disability

Design which takes account of users with disabilities often results in better overall designs.

(Photo: hermes sellier)

Design law and fashion

Industrial design law is at the heart of the European fashion industry.

Design law, treaties and documents

The treaties that WIPO administers, together with national and regional laws, make up the international legal framework for industrial designs.

Reference document

  • Industrial Design Law and Practice – Summary of replies to questionnaire PDF, Summary of Replies to the Questionnaires (Parts I and II) on Industrial Design Law and Practice, Rev. 2

IP laws and treaties (WIPO Lex)

The WIPO Lex database is a comprehensive search tool that allows you to search national laws and international treaties on intellectual property.

Standing Committee (SCT)

The Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) is the forum where WIPO's member states and observers meet to address issues relating to the development of the international legal framework for industrial designs. SCT members are currently seeking agreement on a number of key issues relating to international designs.

Latest meetings

More SCT photos on Flickr. (Photo: WIPO)

Registering and searching industrial designs

The Hague System

The Hague System for the international registration of industrial designs offers the owner of an industrial design a means of obtaining protection in several countries by filing one application in one language, with one set of fees in one currency.

Global Design Database

The Global Design database enables simultaneous searches via a single, intuitive interface across all international industrial designs registered under the Hague System as well as in participating national collections.

Hague Express

The Hague Express database is a first step in industrial design searches. The database provides information, updated weekly, on current and past industrial designs registered under the Hague System.

The Locarno Classification

The Locarno Classification is an international system used to classify goods for the purposes of the registration of industrial designs.

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