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What is “industrial design” and how can it be a tool in your intellectual property (IP) strategy?

Industrial design law in Canada protects the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation which are applied to a product. Elements that are purely functional are not protected. Take the example of the unique shape of a bottle. The purely functional elements – such as a handle, a cap or lid – those elements may not be protectable by industrial design law in Canada, but non-functional design elements such as ornamentations on a handle, a curved neck, or a ridged pattern on a cap may be protectable.

To enforce protection of such designs under the Industrial Designs Act, registration is required, and lasts for 10 years from the date of registration. After the expiry of the 10-year term, the design is available for anyone in Canada to make, import, rent or sell.

To obtain registration, get legal advice early in the design process. If the article or product has been “published” (i.e., it has been made public or offered for sale or use) then it may not be eligible for protection. However, there is a 12 month grace period in which to obtain registration after the product or article is first “published”. Timing is important and protection can be lost if the product launch is not coordinated with IP rights protection.

With experience supporting clients in many different industries, including universities, designers, retailers and wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers, we provide a full range of services including:

  • Design protection for furniture, lighting fixtures, industrial arts, consumer products
  • Advice on clothing and apparel designs
  • Advice on industrial design protection options as part of IP strategy development
  • Design registration and protection
  • Licensing of design rights
  • Ownership, chain-of-title and due diligence services, and
  • Litigation and dispute resolution in cases of infringement of industrial design rights, counterfeits and knock-offs.

Contact Tony Edwards at or 403-260-8590 to discuss how we can assist to protect and enforce industrial designs for your organization.