HomeOpinionIntellectual Property Perspectives: Rationale of industrial design protection

Intellectual Property Perspectives: Rationale of industrial design protection

Richard Pasipanodya

IN this 46th instalment we canvass the essence and rationale for industrial design protection and their importance to socio-economic development.
Conceptual perspectives
In last week’s initial instalment, we defined what industrial design is.
It is important to note that the subject matter of industrial design protection is not the products or articles of manufacture themselves, but rather the pattern, ornamentation, shape or configuration, design applications or embodiment, regardless of their artistic merits, that is the unique ideas or abstract concepts that underlie the design. The design concept or idea may be expressed either in three-dimensional form, such as is the case with shapes and configurations, or two-dimensional form, as is the case with patterns and ornaments of lines or colours, embossed or engraved on two-dimensional surfaces.
Essence of industrial designs
The very essence of industrial designs lies in their individual outward visual appeal or lure in influencing customer perceptions, choices or preferences of a particular product over a range of other products performing the same or similar function in the marketplace. In this regard, like their trademark counterparts, their intrinsic value lies in their uniqueness or individuality to attract custom, hence potency and prowess to sell the goods or services of their proprietors as is more patently conspicuous in modern day consumer markets. The more distinct the design the more its potency and prowess to sell the goods, and paradoxically, the more vulnerable and prone to piracy by lurking unscrupulous predators.
Characteristic design considerations
As is characteristic with other branches of intellectual property (patents, utility models, plant varieties, copyright and related rights etc, industrial designs are produced against considerations of cost constraints and implications; enhancement of market share and competitive advantage; response to satisfying current and future social needs and wants; strengths and weaknesses to competition, technological trends and influences of the operating environment. To this end, industrial designs too play a crucial role in shaping consumer patterns that give impetus and momentum to the socio-economic development of nations.


Nature and scope of designs
It goes without saying that design skills and processes pervade the entire spectrum and spheres of human endeavours and activity. Thus their roots are steeply embedded in the evolutionary trends of any given society’s cultural, economic, political and legislative beliefs, values, perceptions, perspectives and aspirations. In this sense they are reflective of an intimate blend of practices underlying public spirit and utility objectives of societies. The end result of which is that designs evolve into forms that are well-suited to the end-users’ needs, aspirations and expectations.
For instance, in England, Cardinal Richelieu’s disgust with a dinner guest’s constant habit of picking his teeth with a pointed knife prompted the design of the blunted knife, whose subsequent shortcoming to spear meat in turn led to the design of the two-fingered fork, then further improved to modern day diverse fork designs. So too did the Orientals’ displeasure with human fingers dipping into food lead to the design of chopsticks. These related developments amply demonstrate and reinforce the truism that different and culture-specific solutions to similar problems, needs and wants are at the core of design processes.
In this context, design processes are to be viewed as by and large inspired and propelled by the failure of existing products and processes to function optimally to produce the desired result and by the extent to which the creator can innovatively imagine a suitable alternative. To this end, imagination of necessity breeds infinite diversity.
Crucial role of designers
History reveals that during each societal developmental epoch, designers have intimately worked in combination with specialists in human engineering. In which pursuit appropriate research is undertaken to ensure that the resultant product or process meets and suits the desired human needs and wants. In the ultimate accomplishment thereto, it can thus neither be overemphasised or sustainably denied that designers have at all times been instrumental in the creation of new products and processes of variant utility as dictated by societal aspirations and expectations.
In this regard designers are vitally important as they play a crucial and critical role in contributing immensely towards knowledge-based and innovation-driven investment promotion and wealth creation, hence transformation and prosperities of nations, proliferation and betterment of opportunities, and guaranteed ever improved quality and standard of life for all generations—past, contemporary and posterity ad inifitum.
Synoptic design disciplines illustration
The following synoptic design disciplines illustrate modern designs as embodying the highest ideals of sublime functionalism underpinned by aesthetic, ergonometric (human efficiency in surrounding environment) cultural and political concerns.


  • Industrial design is a discipline which relates to the skill of designing products for either consumer or industrial use. In pursuance whereof requisite are attributes of striking an appropriate balance between elegance, visual appeal, functionality, comfort, safety and affordability against considerations of fashion, style, competition, technology trends, production processes, raw material and social concerns.
  • Interior design is the design of spaces to suit the uses of buildings or enclosures and requires artistic flair and creativity, with regard being given to considerations of temperature control, acoustics, lighting and environmental concerns, astride practicality and cost-effectiveness in the use of materials, construction methods, colour, form and texture.
  • Architecture, being the skill of designing building structures that appeal to the intended occupants, requires artistic and technical skills.
  • Clothing design — which seeks to portray personality through creating, adapting and interpreting clothing styles and accessories in response to seasonal dictates, while being configured in very dynamic and competitive market environment requires exquisite skills in the choice of suitable fabrics, designs, pattern, garment construction processes, colour, line, and texture.
  • Mechanical design, by virtue of being the broadest mechanical engineering discipline in terms of functions and activities, is equally broad to encompass virtually all conceivable types of machines, equipment and accessories. It is imperative that designers are possessed of up-to-scratch attributes in equipment failure and improvement analysis, including testing of performance and safety reliability.

Design protection
In a nutshell, design protection is justifiable in that the exclusive rights of exploitation bestowed upon the owner benefits the owner, consumer and economy insofar as it serves to; add to the commercial value of the product of manufacture astride facilitating its marketing and commercialisation; guarantee fair returns on capital investment; encourage fair competition and honest trade practices; stimulates and spurs further creativity, and thus creation of aesthetically attractive and diversified products.
However, the broader perspective is that design protection inevitably injects impetus and gives momentum to increased creativity in all sectors of the economy, contributes to expanded commercial activities, and enhances a nation’s export potential, hence returns on the fiscus to the maximum benefit of all its citizenry.
Pasipanodya is an IP consultant. He writes in his own capacity. Feedback on: mobile +263 775 053 007, or e-mail: legacyipchambers@gmail.com or henripasi@gmail.com

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

NewsDay Zimbabwe will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.