What is an industrial design?

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 colour. Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of products of industry and handicraft: from technical and medical instruments to watches, jewellery, and other luxury items; from housewares and electrical appliances to vehicles and architectural structures; from textile designs to leisure goods. To be protected under most national laws, an industrial design must appeal to the eye. This means that an industrial design is primarily of an aesthetic nature, and does not protect any technical features of the article to which it is applied.

In most countries, an industrial design must be registered in order to be protected under industrial design law. As a general rule, to be registrable, the design must be “new” or “original”. Different countries have varying definitions of such terms, as well as variations in the registration process itself. Generally, “new” means that no identical or very similar design is known to have existed before.

Once a design is registered, a registration certificate is issued. Following that, the term of protection is generally five years, with the possibility of further periods of renewal up to, in most cases, 15 years. Depending on the particular national law and the kind of design, an industrial design may also be protected 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: once the owner chooses one kind of protection, he can no longer invoke the other. Under certain circumstances an industrial design may also be protectable under unfair competition law, although the conditions of protection and the rights and remedies ensured can be significantly different. – WIPO.

A South African registered design protects the appearance of an article, unlike a patent which protects the underlying invention on which an article is based. Even though the underlying principle of operation may be the same as a known article, a new appearance may be protectable by way of a South African registered design.

Class(es)

In South Africa, the designs register is split into two sections. Firstly, an aesthetic design protects the appearance of an article, irrespective of the aesthetic value thereof (such as cell phones covers or automobile designs). Secondly, a functional design protects the appearance of an article in as far as its appearance is necessitated by the function that the article is to perform (such as a paving stone or aluminium profiling).

Duration in South Africa

The duration of an Aesthetic design is 15 years.
The duration of a Functional design is 10 years.

In addition, designs are grouped into different classes of technology and a design application may be filed in one or more classes, to provide protection against infringing products falling in the same class. It is important to note that the protection is limited to articles falling in the same class for which the design has been registered. The classes into which designs are classified are set out at the end of this page.