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Conditions for protection

Filing a design makes it possible to achieve protect against infringement of the esthetic features of a product. Protection can be granted to two-dimensional creations (fabrics, watch dials etc.) as well as to three-dimensional objects (furniture, watches, apparatus cases etc.). The term of protection for designs varies, depending on the country, from 10 to 25 years. Through the law on designs, it is possible to protect the esthetic aspect of a product. According to the definition given by this law, the design characterizes any creation of products or parts of products by the arrangement of lines, surfaces, contours or colors or by the material used. This applies to nearly all common objects of daily use, from a cutlery set to a toothbrush of particular shape, from a fanciful tie to a fabric for covering car seats, from a watch dial to a greeting card, as well as to design in industry such as for example for machines, tools, and any kind of instrument. The filing resp. registration of a design with the competent authority is often simple and cost-effective and constitutes a good weapon against those who might be tempted to copy a particularly attractive design.

Furthermore, a same device could be protected by the law on design for its aesthetic features and by the law on patents for its technical characteristics. Both types of protection thus complement each other. However, as design protection is refused if the characteristics derive exclusively from its technical function, filing a design will not afford protection to a method of manufacture, a technical function or the utilitarian character of a product, these elements being covered only by patent law. Most countries that have passed legislation regarding designs, e.g. Switzerland, set certain conditions for granting protection. In principle, the design must be new, i.e. no identical design may have been disclosed previously that could have been known by the relevant public prior to the filing date, and original, i.e. its general impression and major features must be clearly different from any design that could have been known by the relevant public. The criteria may vary from one State to another. Even a disclosure by the inventor or creator himself may destroy the novelty of a design! Certain countries provide a period of grace of 12 months during which the disclosure of a design will not be considered detrimental if it has been done by its creator or by a third party acting abusively. Our advice: it is better to file rapidly to avoid taking useless risks.

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