World Intellectual Property Organization

Industrial Designs

What is an industrial design?

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.

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.

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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