An industrial design intellectual property (IP) right provides protection to visual designs of objects that are not strictly functional in nature. The IP right applies to both three-dimensional and two-dimensional patterns. In some countries, industrial designs are protected by design patents. For example, a US design patent specifically protects the ornamental design of functional objects.
Generally, the difference between a design patent and a utility patent (also known as an invention patent in some countries) is that a utility patent protects the method in which an article is used, while a design patent protects the appearance of the article. In practical terms, it can be difficult to clearly divide the features of an article on the basis of their utility and ornamentality, as the product may possess both.
Although there is no international design patent, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides the facility to file for a single international application for a novel design. If the registration is successful, the design can receive protection in all member countries that are signatories of the Hague system agreement.