In most countries, an industrial design must be registered in order to be protected under industrial design law. As a rule, to be registrable, the design must be
“new” or “original”. 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 previously existed. Once a design is registered, a registration certificate is issued. Following that, the term of
protection granted is generally five years, with the possibility of further renewal, in most cases for a period of up to 15 years.
Hardly any other subject matter within the realm of intellectual property is as difficult to categorize as industrial designs. And this has significant implications for the means and terms of its protection. Depending on the particular national law and the kind of design, an industrial design may also be protected as a work of
applied art under copyright law, with a much longer term of protection than the standard 10 or 15 years under registered design law. In some countries, industrial
design and copyright protection can exist concurrently. In other countries, they are mutually exclusive: once owners choose one kind of protection, they 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 available can differ significantly.