Written by Kevin Seo
JD Candidate 2023 | UCalgary Law
Industrial designs, which are also sometimes referred to as design patents, are a type of intellectual property which predominantly focuses on a product’s visual features. While industrial designs are less commonly known compared to patents, copyrights or trademarks, registering industrial designs can be a great source of value for start-ups and newly formed companies. This article will discuss the basic ins-and-outs respecting the law as it applies to industrial designs.
At its core, industrial designs protect a product’s unique appearance irrespective of what it is made of, how it is made or how it works. Industrial designs can be distinguished from patents as industrial designs are not concerned with whether an entirely novel good or process was created. The functional aspects of a specific product are not considered, only the visual aspects such as shapes, configurations, or patterns. 
Specifically, registering industrial designs afford the corporation the exclusive right to exclude others from making, selling, or importing similarly manufactured goods. Industrial designs can be registered alongside copyrights and patents for more comprehensive protection of intellectual property rights. For example, a creator of a video game may be able to register the game’s storyline as copyright, while also registering the specific aesthetic quality of the computer graphics as industrial designs.
For an individual to apply to register an industrial design, they must be the proprietor of the industrial design or an agent acting on the proprietor’s behalf. The proprietor is often the creator of the industrial design. The one exception is if the creator was hired for the specific purpose of the industrial design, at which point the employer would be considered the proprietor.
When registering an industrial design, the first step is to file an industrial design application. The application generally includes information such a description of the industrial design, reasons for why the registration is sought, and the identity of the application’s filer. The application is then reviewed by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, otherwise referred to as the CIPO. The CIPO will determine whether the design is sufficiently novel and will either provide a notification of approval or an examiner’s report outlining objections to the application. If an examiner’s report is received, the applicant has 3 months to either amend the application or provide arguments as to why the application should be accepted. If the examiner determines that the application fulfills all the requirements, the industrial design will proceed to be registered. It may take up to 12 months to receive an examiner’s first report after initially filing, and a Canadian industrial design registration will last for ten years from the registration date or fifteen years from the filing date, whichever is longer. 
 Tingle, Bryce C. Start-up and Growth Companies in Canada: A guide to legal and business practice, ed (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2018).
 Canadian Intellectual Property Office. “Government of Canada”, (10 January 2023), online: Government of Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Office of the Deputy Minister, Canadian Intellectual Property Office <https://ised-isde.canada.ca/site/canadian-intellectual-property-office/en/industrial-designs/industrial-designs-guide> .
 “Industrial Design FAQ”, online: Heer Law <https://www.heerlaw.com/industrial-design-faq> .
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