Design rights are an aspect of intellectual property law. Specifically, design rights relate to the exclusive use of the designs contained in a patented invention. Sometimes called “industrial design rights”, these types of rights protect the inventor of a design from unauthorized use of the design.

This helps to ensure that the design patent holder is the only one who can profit from the application of the design. It can help to prevent instances of design patent infringement. Patent infringement is somewhat similar to copyright infringement. However, copyright infringement generally applies to works of art such as literature or music. Patent infringement generally involves inventions and designs.

What Do Design Rights Cover?

Design rights generally cover aspects of a mechanical design aren’t functional (i.e. form part of the invention’s design). These are often aspects of the design that provide a unique, creative addition to the equipment or invention.

Design rights can cover aspects of the design such as:

  • Creation of a particular shape
  • Specific patterns or themes
  • Various color schemes
  • Arrangements or configurations of parts
  • Specific font designs

Designs that are aesthetic or related only to appearance may also be covered by trademark or trade dress laws, but this may differ depending on each individual design.

What If Design Rights Have Been Violated?

Protection for design rights can be secured by filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The filing process has many steps and often requires the assistance of an intellectual property lawyer.  Once secured, the design patent rights provide the owner with rights to the designs.

This means that an outside party can be sued if they use the design without the owner’s permission. They can also be subject to lawsuit if they attempt to create a similar design based on the original design (there are various limitations involved here).

If a party is found to be liable for a violation of design right, they may be required to pay damages to the design holder for any losses caused by the infringement. In these types of cases, the judge will usually order that the violating company cease their infringing activities.  The unauthorized products or creations may also be confiscated by enforcement authorities.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Industrial Design Rights?

Every year, many companies and individual inventors lose profits because they failed to secure rights to their own designs. You may wish to hire a intellectual property lawyer for advice and representation if you have any questions or legal issues regarding industrial design rights.  Your attorney can help you apply for patent protection, and can also represent you in court if your design rights have been subject to an infringement violation.