‘Copyright vs Design’ is an interesting topic! In the vast realm of intellectual property rights, the distinctions between copyright and industrial design often blur, leaving many creators and innovators in a quandary.

While both offer essential protections, they distinctly cater to different types of creations and the respective sectors they inhabit.

Copyright traditionally shields artistic expressions, while industrial safeguards the aesthetic aspect of functional items.

Navigating the nuances between these two can be crucial for anyone in the creative and manufacturing industries.

This blog will embark on a journey to demystify the differences, offering clarity to those at the intersection of artistry and industry.

Dive in as we dissect the intricacies of copyright and industrial design.

What is the Difference Between Copyright, Trademark and Design?

  1. Copyright:
    • Nature: Protects original works of authorship.
    • Examples: Literary works, music, films, software, paintings, and photographs.
    • Duration: Typically lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years (though this can vary by jurisdiction).
    • Purpose: To prevent unauthorised replication, distribution, or adaptation of a work.
    • Registration: In many jurisdictions, copyright arises automatically upon creation of the work, but registration can provide enhanced protections.
  2. Trademark:
    • Nature: Protects symbols, names, and slogans used to identify goods or services.
    • Examples: Brand logos, brand names, and jingles.
    • Duration: As long as it’s in use and defended against infringement. Can be renewed indefinitely.
    • Purpose: To differentiate and protect the identity of a brand, ensuring consumers aren’t misled or confused.
    • Registration: To enforce rights, trademarks typically need to be registered, though some rights can exist based on mere usage.
  3. Design:
    • Nature: Protects the visual appearance or aesthetics of a product, excluding its functionality.
    • Examples: The shape of a chair, the layout of a smartphone’s icons, or the unique look of a car model.
    • Duration: Varies by jurisdiction but is typically for a limited number of years (e.g., 15-25 years).
    • Purpose: To prevent the copying of the unique appearance of products.
    • Registration: Protection usually requires registration in most jurisdictions.

Copyright Definition

Copyright is a legal concept that grants creators exclusive rights to their original creative works, allowing them to protect and control the use of their creations.

This protection typically covers literary, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished.

The purpose of copyright is to encourage the creation of art and culture by giving creators exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and adapt their creations for a specified period.

These rights can be licensed, transferred, or relinquished by the creator.

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Trademark Definition

Trademark is a symbol, word, phrase, logo, design, or combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods or services of one party from those of others.

Trademarks serve to protect consumers from confusion and deception, ensuring that they can reliably identify the source of a product or service.

Unlike copyrights, which protect creative works, trademarks safeguard the branding and identity associated with a particular company or product, ensuring consistent quality and trust in the marketplace.

Trademarks can be renewed indefinitely as long as they remain in use and maintain their distinctiveness.

Industrial Design Definition

Industrial Design refers to the aesthetic or visual aspect of an item, focusing on the appearance, shape, surface, or ornamentation.

It does not concern the technical features or functionality of the item.

An industrial can be a two- or three-dimensional pattern used to produce a product, industrial commodity, or handicraft.

The primary purpose of protecting industrial is to safeguard the visual appeal of products, ensuring that one entity cannot copy the unique appearance of another’s product.

Once registered, the owner of the industrial framework has exclusive rights to it, preventing others from making, selling, or distributing products with the same or a confusingly similar framework.

Copyright vs Design


  • Nature: Protects original works of authorship.
  • Scope: Covers literary works, music, films, software, paintings, photographs, and more.
  • Protection Mechanism: In many jurisdictions, copyright protection arises automatically upon the creation and fixation of the work.
  • Duration: Typically, it lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, though this can vary by jurisdiction.
  • Purpose: To prevent unauthorised replication, distribution, adaptation, or performance of a work. It doesn’t protect ideas but the expression of those ideas.
  • Rights: The owner has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or license their works. Others cannot do these things without the copyright holder’s permission.

Design (Industrial Design):

  • Nature: Protects the visual appearance or aesthetics of a product, not its functionality.
  • Scope: Covers the shape, surface, or ornamentation of an object. This can be two-dimensional (patterns, lines, or color) or three-dimensional (the shape of an object).
  • Protection Mechanism: Protection usually requires registration in most jurisdictions. Once registered, a framework right will protect against unauthorised copying or imitation.
  • Duration: Typically much shorter than copyright, often 15-25 years, varying by jurisdiction.
  • Purpose: To safeguard the unique appearance or design of products, incentivising innovation in product framework.
  • Rights: The owner has the exclusive right to use the design. Others cannot produce, sell, or import products with the framework without the owner’s consent.
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Copyright vs Design – Nuances in Similarities

Framework patents and copyright are both components of intellectual property law that provide protection to creators and inventors, but they cater to different aspects of creations and innovations.

While there are similarities between the two, there are nuanced differences that set them apart.

Here’s an exploration of their similarities and the subtle distinctions:


  1. Protection of Originality: Both framework patents and copyright protect original creations. They prevent unauthorised copying and usage, ensuring that creators and inventors receive recognition and economic benefit from their innovations.
  2. Exclusive Rights: Both grant exclusive rights to the holder, permitting them to decide who can use, produce, sell, or replicate the protected item or work.

Nuances in Differences:

  1. Nature of Protection:
    • Design Patents: Protect the ornamental design of a functional item. It’s about how an item looks.
    • For example, the unique design of a chair or a shoe can be protected by a design patent.
    • Copyright: Protects original works of authorship, like literature, music, software, and art. It covers the expression of ideas rather than the ideas themselves.
  2. Duration:
    • Design Patents: Typically have a shorter protection period.
    • Copyright: Usually lasts much longer, often for the life of the author plus 70 years (though this varies by jurisdiction).
  3. Scope of Protection:
    • Design Patents: The protection is specific to the exact design depicted in the patent. Variations of the design, unless they are too similar, would not infringe on the patent.
    • Copyright: Offers broader protection, covering not just the exact work but also “derivative works” based on the original.
  4. Protection Mechanism:
    • Design Patents: Require a formal application process with a patent office. The design must be novel, non-obvious, and ornamental.
    • Copyright: Generally arises automatically upon the creation and fixation of a work. Registration, while beneficial for enforcement, is not always mandatory for protection.
  5. Functional Limitations:
    • Design Patents: While they protect the appearance of functional items, they do not cover the utilitarian or functional aspects of those items.
    • Copyright: Does not protect functional or utilitarian aspects of a work.
    • For instance, while a creative design on a piece of fabric can be copyrighted, the functional use of the fabric as clothing is outside copyright’s purview.


In the multifaceted realm of intellectual property, understanding the distinctions between copyright and design is pivotal.

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While both mechanisms aim to protect the creator’s rights and foster innovation, they cater to different facets of creative expression.

Copyright predominantly shields the original expression of ideas, ensuring creators are credited and compensated for their contributions.

In contrast, design rights focus on safeguarding the unique visual attributes of functional items, promoting originality in product aesthetics.

Recognising the nuances between these two protections ensures that creators, artists, and designers are well-equipped to defend their creations and navigate the intricacies of intellectual property rights effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to distinguish copyright and Industrial design rights?

Copyright protects original works of authorship like literature, music, and art, covering the expression of ideas.

Design rights, on the other hand, protect the visual appearance or aesthetics of products, focusing on their shape, surface, or ornamentation.

Do I need to register to get protection under copyright and design rights?

Copyright protection generally arises automatically upon the creation and fixation of a work, though registration can offer enhanced protections and is necessary for certain legal actions.

Design rights, however, often require formal registration in most jurisdictions for protection.

How long do copyright and design rights last?

Copyright duration is typically for the life of the author plus 70 years, though this can vary by jurisdiction.

Design rights have a shorter duration, often ranging between 15-25 years, depending on the jurisdiction.

Can a single product be protected by both copyright and design rights?

Yes, in some cases, a product can have elements that are protected by copyright (like artistic graphics) and elements that can be protected by design rights (like the unique shape of the product).

However, the protections cover different aspects of the product.

If someone copies the look of my product, which right should I enforce?

If someone replicates the aesthetic or ornamental design of your product, and you have a registered design, you’d typically enforce your design rights.

If they’ve copied artistic elements that are separable from the product’s function, you might enforce copyright.

It’s essential to consult with a legal expert to determine the best course of action.