The creator of a product who wants to protect its appearance can do so by registering for a design right. If the created product is an original work, its appearance can also be protected by  copyright, as this also extends to utilitarian works and applied art. Copyright protection starts with the simple creation of the product and the originality of its form; it is, therefore, not necessary to register the work (that constitutes the form of the product) for it to be protected.

If these rights are cumulated, copying the appearance of the product may be prohibited by both the design right and by copyright.

The appearance of a product may also be protected by trademark rights if teh appearance makes it possible to distinguish the products or services of a business.

For example, the famous shape of the Coca-Cola bottle is registered as a trademark. The shape of the bottle informs consumers that this fizzy drink is being sold by the Coca-Cola company.

In practice, it is not always easy to register three-dimensional signs as trademarks. Certain product shapes are not likely to constitute a trade mark, particularly if they impart a significant value on the product, which would be the case, if the product's appearance gives it a vital aesthetic value. For example, a Dutch court ruled that the shape of a children's chair could not constitute a trademark, as its role was primarily aesthetic.

Last update
23 September 2022