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World Intellectual Property Day: Design is 2011 theme!

April 26, 2011

There is a saying that all 365 days in a year are blocked for some or the other day! I would bet my money on that, but April 26th is very important for people in our practice. April 26th was chosen by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as ‘WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DAY’ in 2000! This date was chosen so because the convention establishing WIPO entered into force in 1970 on this day.

Why is this day important to us? Countries across the world celebrate this day by creating awareness of Intellectual Property. Every year has a new theme with past World IP Days having themes like creativity, green innovation, Innovation, and Business. This year’s theme is ‘DESIGN’. Are we in a fashion show or an art school? Most of us think that there are only three kinds of Intellectual Property – Patents for protecting technology and innovation, Trademarks protecting goods and service marks (common language – company logos), and Copyrights protecting creative works (books, music, films). That’s not true in this world anymore. Even Semiconductor designs and Plant Varieties are protected under Intellectual Property.

Let’s shift our focus to this year’s theme, why did we choose design? With fast-changing technology world, we are living in, there are some technologies for which innovation has diminished and creators use design to distinguish these products from other competitors. Quoting Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General from his IP Day Message:

Design is one of the principal means of differentiating a range of mass produced household and consumer items, such as chairs and tables, for which the technological possibilities for development have been exhausted. With increasing emphasis on ecologically sound living, “designing out waste” has become an aspiration shared by many creators. Sustainable design processes can help lower production costs and reduce environmental impact.

Some countries have design patents (like US), using which you can protect your designs ranging from T-Shirts to Motorcycle Fenders. United States has a 14 year protection for Design Patents as compared to 20 years for a utility patent. While other countries (like India) have Industrial Design protection under Intellectual Property under Hague System. Let me explain you with some examples. Many touch screen phones have a fundamental technology associated with them like Capacitative Sensing or Surface Acoustic Wave. How do they differentiate from each other? One obvious answer is “user experience” like Apple IPhone or Android. Other is “design”. Each phone looks different which keeps consumers aware of which phone is which. You can also relate to the automobile industry, in which most technologies are same with different designs like Ferrari differentiating from others.

Though, TouchScreen industry and Automobile industry still have lot of innovation going on to give consumer a different experience. There are some industries like Furniture or Clothing who do not leverage patents so extensively as they use designs to protect their products from other competitors.

For further reading:

WIPO IP Day Message: http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2011/article_0014.html

WIPO Design under Hague: http://www.wipo.int/hague/en/

India Industrial Designs: http://ipindia.nic.in/ (Click on Designs)

US Design Patents: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/resources/types/designapp.jsp

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