Activity: Industrial Design Considerations

Scenario: Stella’s Belts

Stella is an entrepreneur and artist. She has recently designed some new women’s belts that have a novel interlocking clasp to keep the belt in place that she developed herself. Stella’s belts are also particularly attractive to consumers because the leather is embossed with her artwork and the silver belt buckle is in the shape of a lightning bolt.

Read each of the scenarios below and decide what information you think Stella should be made aware of in relation to pursing industrial design protection.

Scenario 1

Stella is exploring both patents and industrial design protection for her belts. She is concerned about the cost implications associated with both. 

  • She could potentially obtain a patent on the interlocking clasp and industrial design protection over the artistic design elements of her belts. In other words, she could have two different forms of IP protection over the same object.
  • Generally, industrial design protection is cheaper and quicker to obtain than patent protection, even though there are costs associated with the registration and examination process.
  • However, industrial design protection will not prevent someone else from manufacturing the novel interlocking clasp feature. If she chooses to proceed solely by way of industrial design protection, she would need to be aware of this vulnerability in her overall IP protection.

Scenario 2

Stella is not sure what advantages she will gain from industrial design protection, since the greatest revenue potential lies in the interlocking clasp. She wonders whether she can use copyright law to protect the design elements instead, thereby saving on registration costs and enjoying a longer period of protection. 

  • Once registered, a design will often be protected against independent creation of the same or substantially similar design, so the scope of protection is greater than for copyright, even if the protection lasts for a shorter period of time.
  • In addition, some countries, including Canada, expressly exclude mass-manufactured useful products from copyright. If this is the case, often industrial design protection is the only available form of IP.

Scenario 3

Stella recognizes that fashion accessories such as belts may go out of style quickly. She wonders whether industrial design protection is worth the effort and expense. 

  • The length of protection for industrial designs might be a determining factor in some cases. For product designs that are intended to have a long shelf life, industrial design protection may not be the optimal choice.
  • In a similar vein, for designs in industries that change rapidly (for example, fashion), the length and delays in the registration process may make industrial design protection an unattractive option.

Therefore, Stella should do a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether industrial design protection is worth the effort and expense, given her particular business circumstances and the industry in which she operates.

If she rules out industrial design protection, then she should consider what other forms of IP or combinations of IP might offer strategic advantages.

Last modified: Friday, 4 September 2020, 11:45 AM