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An industrial design protects the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament — or any combination of these features — applied to a finished article made by hand, tool or machine.


The shape of a perfume bottle, the sleek design of a car, and the elegant shape of a tablet are all examples of an industrial design. The registered design must be original and cannot be obvious in view of pre-existing designs or products.

Canada grants a maximum of 10 years for the legal protection of a registered design. An industrial design is a valuable business asset that can complement, or sometimes replace, patents.


While a patent covers the function of a product, a design protects the visual features of the product. In addition, a design registration costs only a fraction of the issuance of a patent.

Shapiro Cohen LLP will help you determine if applying for an industrial design is the right strategy for your IP portfolio.


We will guide you through the design application process in Canada and in other countries.

FAQ & Case Studies

Industrial Design FAQ

What cannot be protected by an industrial design?

  • an idea
  • a method of construction
  • materials used in the construction of an article
  • the function of an article

Is there a time limit to file an industrial design application?

The application must be filed no later than 12 months after it is first disclosed to the public.

What is “maintenance” and what is the maintenance fee?

Once your industrial design application is approved by the Canadian Industrial Design Office, it is registered for an initial period of five years. During this time, you have the exclusive right to the design in Canada.

You can maintain the registration for an additional five-year period by payment of a maintenance fee before the end of the first five-year term. This maintenance fee payment deadline can be extended for no more than six months, after which it is no longer possible to maintain the registration.

What documents are required to register an industrial design?

  • Application form — including a description
  • Drawing(s) or photograph(s) of the design

Note: Only the visual aspects of the design should be described. This includes the shape, configuration, pattern or ornament (or any combination of these); it should not refer to how the article functions or performs.

Effects of publicizing your design before filing an application

While Canada provides a 12-month grace period to file an industrial design application after it is published, other jurisdictions have different grace periods or none at all.

We recommend filing an application before going to the trade show, handing out samples, seeking crowd-source funding, or publicizing your design in other ways. If you must disclose your design to investors, contractors, or other third parties, we recommend using a confidentiality or a non-disclosure agreement when doing so.

At Shapiro Cohen LLP, we can provide with filing information in other countries, and assistance in preparing confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements.

What costs to expect

In addition to professional costs for preparing and filing your industrial design application, be prepared to pay government fees related to filing, reviewing and approving the application.

Canadian process

Once your design application is filed at the Canadian Industrial Design Office, it is examined to make sure that it fulfills all of the requirements for allowance. The Examiner may issue a formal request to correct any defects, usually within 6-12 months after filing. If there are no objections, a Notice of allowance issues immediately; otherwise, usually a few months after a response is filed to the Examiner’s objections.

The examination process can be shortened by requesting accelerated examination for a fee. In addition, documents will have to be filed if a change in ownership of the design takes place.

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Industrial Design Case Studies

Sharon had become frustrated with the hockey bags that she had bought for her son over the years. It seemed each new model lacked some useful features. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a water bottle holder on the side, or a special compartment for skates, or strategic placements of pockets and zippers?  Sharon started thinking about patenting her idea, and then learned of the enormous costs.  Should Sharon simply walk away from this project?

Answer: No.  Fortunately for Sharon, she consulted an IP professional who informed her that she could probably not get a patent for her hockey bag, as the features she thought of were not inventive. However, the professional recommended filing an industrial design application for the hockey bag, with a view to making it visually distinct from bags already on the market. Sharon saved thousands of dollars (by not filing a patent application), and was able to obtain an industrial design for her product.

Conclusion: If you are a sole inventor, make sure your IP professional provides you with all options available to protect your idea(s). At Shapiro Cohen LLP, we will provide you with a step-by-step, personalized process to assess all available avenues to secure your IP rights — provided your product has not already been designed by someone else.

Valerie and her close-knit team have developed hair products made entirely from natural ingredients. They have performed preliminary market analysis, and found favourable reaction to their products. They decide the only way to protect their invention is through a patent. Is this a sound strategy?

Answer: In this case, the company may also want to look into marketing their hair products in distinctively-shaped bottles or containers. Not only should they see if they can patent the hair product formulae, they should look into getting an industrial design registration for the bottles that will contain their product. The design registration of the distinctive bottle has nothing to do with what is inside. Rather, it protects the visual features of the bottle against reproduction by another party. In time, the distinctive bottle design becomes associated with the contents inside and may eventually be subject to trademark protection.

Conclusion: At Shapiro Cohen  LLP, we will work with your team to ensure that your company’s IP rights are properly protected by exploring all options. This may mean securing a combination of patent, design and other types of IP registration in order to obtain a full range of IP rights. Our goal is to help you protect your creative ingenuity.

The staggering financial pie of the tablet and smartphone market has resulted in a clash of titans. Apple and Samsung have gone head-to-head in litigation in several countries, as each company tries to assert supremacy of its product.

In particular, Apple has sued Samsung for infringing a number of its design patents for its tablets (aka the IPad®). While the suits have been successful in some jurisdictions (and are under appeal), the UK court ruled that the Samsung tablet was not as “cool” as the Apple design, and thus, did not infringe Apple’s design.

This decision is also under appeal. Whatever the outcome, the financial stakes will be quite high. The different conclusions indicate just how subjective a ruling of infringement can be.

Conclusion: At Shapiro Cohen LLP, we will help to enforce your industrial design rights against unlawful copying or modification.