The significance of industrial design for businesses, particularly in today’s competitive market, cannot be overstated. As Thomas J. Watson, former CEO of IBM, aptly said, "Good design is good business." This principle is evident from the earliest tools of prehistoric times to modern technological marvels like the iPhone. In the current global market, where functionality often converges, aesthetic appeal and unique design have become crucial product differentiators.
The role of design has evolved from purely practical to a blend of functionality and aesthetic appeal. Consumers are now influenced as much by the look of a product as by its functionality. This shift has made design a key driver in purchasing decisions, impacting business success significantly.
However, with the increasing importance of design, the risk of design infringement has also escalated. This is where industrial design rights come into play. Industrial design (ID) is an intellectual property right that protects the aesthetic aspect of a product, distinct from its functional features. To qualify for ID protection, a design must be novel and capable of industrial mass production. ID does not cover designs dictated solely by functionality.
The protection afforded by ID registration is substantial, typically offering 15 to 25 years of exclusive rights to the design. This monopoly prevents others from making, selling, or importing products with similar or substantially similar designs. Importantly, ID protection extends beyond physical products to encompass 2D designs and graphical user interfaces (GUIs).
The legal battle between Apple Inc. and Samsung underscores the power of industrial design rights. Apple's design patents (essentially industrial designs) formed the basis of their legal action against Samsung for infringement, leading to a significant damages award. This case illustrates how robustly protected designs can provide a competitive edge, potentially excluding rivals from key markets.
In summary, industrial design is a critical asset for businesses, enabling them to protect their unique aesthetic innovations. It's a powerful tool for maintaining market dominance, dictating pricing, and maximising profits. In a world where design can profoundly influence consumer behaviour, industrial design protection is very good for business.