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Difference Between Copyright and Design


It might be difficult to distinguish between design patents and copyright, especially in the broad field of intellectual property. This uncertainty might make innovators and creators unsure about the best ways to protect their works of art.

While copyright and design rights are vital for safeguarding artistic accomplishments, they are limited to particular industries and types of work. Copyright primarily safeguards original works of art, music, theatre, and literature. Playwrights, musicians, artists, and authors are all included. However, practical commodities whose aesthetics and visual appearance are better protected by design rights include industrial designs, product packaging, and graphical user interfaces. While design rights are vital to the manufacturing, consumer goods, and product design sectors, copyright protection is crucial for the publishing, entertainment, and software development businesses. To choose the optimal kind of intellectual property protection for their assets, artists and businesses must be aware of these distinctions.

Although design protection and copyright may seem comparable at first, they really cover different aspects of creative expression. Creative works like music and paintings are usually protected by copyright, whereas design rights are more concerned with maintaining the aesthetics of useful things. For those working in the industrial or creative industries, understanding these distinctions is crucial. This blog aims to elucidate these differences and offer guidance to individuals working at the nexus of the arts and business. Come explore the fascinating world of design and copyright with us!

Distinctions between Design, Trademark, and Copyright

  • Important safety measures: Original works created by persons are protected by copyright, which includes literary works like books, music, movies, software, paintings, and photos.
  • Time: Depending on the author’s location, copyright protection usually lasts for their lifetime plus an additional 70 years.
  • Limitations: The copyright prevents unauthorized duplication, distribution, or alteration of your work by other parties.
  • Registration: You may receive additional legal benefits by registering your work, even though copyright protection usually arises naturally when a work is created.

Trademark: Safeguarding Your Brand Identity

  • Important Protections: Trademarks cover characteristics like logos, brand names, and catchy jingles that serve as distinguishers for your business’s products or services.
  • Duration: Trademark protection can endure indefinitely through active use and defence against infringement. Renewing registration ensures continued protection.
  • Restrictions: Trademarks prohibit the use of confusingly similar symbols or names that could mislead consumers about the origin of goods or services.
  • Registration: While some rights can arise from usage alone, formal trademark registration provides stronger legal recourse.

Design: Preserving a Product’s Visual Appeal

  • Key Protections: Design rights defend the visual appearance of a product, focusing on aesthetics rather than functionality, covering aspects like chair shapes, smartphone icon layouts, or car designs.
  • Duration: The duration varies by jurisdiction, typically lasting for a limited number of years, usually ranging from 15 to 25 years.
  • Restrictions: Design rights deter others from replicating the distinctive visual aspects of your product.
  • Registration: Registration is generally required in most jurisdictions to secure legal protection for your design.

Copyright: Guardianship of Artistic Ingenuity

Copyright serves as a legal fortress shielding the original works crafted by creators, granting them exclusive rights over their creations’ usage. This safeguard extends across a spectrum of creative expressions, encompassing literature, music, art, and beyond, whether disseminated publicly or not.

At its essence, copyright fosters artistic and cultural proliferation by endowing creators with exclusive dominion over the reproduction, distribution, performance, or adaptation of their works for a defined period. This dominion extends beyond creation, affording creators the freedom to license, transfer, or relinquish these rights as they see fit.

Trademark: The Emblem of Your Brand Identity

A trademark acts as a distinctive emblem that distinguishes your offerings from competitors in the market. It encompasses symbols, words, phrases, logos, designs, or their amalgamation. Primarily, trademarks serve to eliminate confusion among consumers regarding the origin of goods or services.

Picture entering a store – trademarks facilitate the clear identification of a product or service’s source. In contrast to copyright, which safeguards creative expression, trademarks focus on preserving the branding and identity associated with your business or product. This fosters consistent consumer expectations of quality and reliability when interacting with your brand. The perpetual protection of your trademark is achievable through continued usage and the maintenance of its distinctiveness.

Industrial Design: Preserving Your Product’s Aesthetic Essence

In addition to a product’s usefulness, industrial design emphasizes a product’s shape, appearance, surface patterns, and decorations. It includes all patterns, both two- and three-dimensional, that are utilized to create products in order to guarantee their “look and feel.”

The significance of protecting industrial design lies in its ability to safeguard the distinct visual appeal of products. For instance, if you design a chair with a unique shape, industrial design rights prevent others from simply replicating that appearance. Upon registration, you obtain exclusive rights to your design, preventing competitors from manufacturing, selling, or distributing products with a visually similar appearance.

Copyright and Design Rights: Safeguarding Creative Works

Copyright acts as a shield for original creations, including literary works, music, movies, paintings, and photographs. This protection is automatic upon creation and typically lasts for the creator’s lifetime plus 70 years. It prevents unauthorized copying, distribution, adaptations, or performances of the work, granting exclusive control to the copyright owner over its use.

Conversely, design—more especially, industrial design—focuses on safeguarding a product’s outward features, such as its form, surface patterns, or distinctive designs. In contrast to copyright, design protection is subject to registration requirements and has a shorter lifespan, often ranging from 15 to 25 years, depending on the country. Its goal is to preserve the distinctive aesthetics of inventions while promoting innovation in product design. In conclusion, design rights need registration and safeguard aesthetics, whereas copyright protects creativity and arises organically. In addition, compared to design rights, copyright offers more durable protection.

Distinguishing Framework Patents and Copyright: An Analysis

Framework patents and copyrights serve as pillars of intellectual property law, safeguarding creators and inventors, though they cater to distinct dimensions of creations and innovations. While sharing commonalities, they exhibit nuanced disparities.


  • Originality Protection: Both framework patents and copyrights shield original creations, preventing unauthorized replication and ensuring creators’ acknowledgement and economic benefit.
  • Exclusive Rights: Both confer exclusive rights to holders, empowering them to regulate the use, production, sale, or replication of the protected work.

Nuanced Differences:

  1. Nature of Protection:
    1. Design Patents: Preserve the ornamental design of functional items, emphasizing aesthetics.
    2. Copyright: Defends original works of authorship, spanning literature, music, software, and art, focusing on expression rather than underlying ideas.
  2. Duration:
    1. Design Patents: Typically entail shorter protection periods.
    2. Copyright: Generally endures much longer, often extending to the author’s life plus 70 years.
  3. Scope of Protection:
    1. Design Patents: Provide specific protection to the exact design outlined, with limited variation allowance.
    2. Copyright: Affords broader coverage, encompassing derivative works derived from the original.
  4. Protection Mechanism:
    1. Design Patents: Mandate a formal application process with a patent office, necessitating novelty, non-obviousness, and ornamental design.
    2. Copyright: Typically arises automatically upon creation and fixation, with optional registration for enhanced enforcement, though not always mandatory.
  5. Functional Limitations:
    1. Design Patents: Safeguard the appearance of functional items while excluding protection for their utilitarian aspects.
    2. Copyright: Excludes protection for functional or utilitarian aspects of a work, focusing solely on its expressive elements.

For instance, a fabric with an original design may be protected by copyright, but the fabric’s practical application as clothes is not.


It might be difficult to identify the difference between copyright and design patents in the complicated world of intellectual property today. For inventors and creators looking to properly protect their artistic works, this uncertainty presents difficulties. Original works of music, literature, and art are protected by copyright, but the aesthetics of utilitarian objects are preserved under design rights. It is crucial for both people and organizations to comprehend these differences in order to select the best asset protection option. At Kanakkupillai, we offer professional aid in navigating this complex environment, offering direction and support in the efficient protection and management of intellectual property rights.


Telecom engineer turned content creator with a knack for crafting compelling narratives. Experienced in client management and community engagement, and ventured into freelance content creation, contributing tailored and impactful content across diverse industries. Currently, collaborating with companies like Kanakkupillai, dedicated to delivering inspiring technical content rooted in a solid foundation.