Recent Decision Confirms Industrial Designs Can Protect Functional Features That Are Also Aesthetic

  • AuthorPalmer IP
  • Date 10 June 2015
  • CategoryNews

A recent decision of the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal in the Zero Spill Systems Inc. v. Heide, 2015 FCA 115 case confirmed that Canadian Industrial Designs can protect features that are functional in nature, provided that these features also have an aesthetic component or aspect.  In reversing part of the decision of the lower court, the Federal Court of Appeal found that a Canadian Industrial Design (No. 86,793) could not be invalidated on the basis that some of the features of the design were in some way functional.  Rather, the Court confirmed that “functional features of an industrial design may be protected by the Industrial Design Act”, and that industrial design features may be “simultaneously useful and visually appealing”.  The Court clarified that under section 5.1(a) of the Industrial Design Act, it is only features “that are dictated solely by a utilitarian function of the article” (emphasis added) that may not be protected by an Industrial Design.  In fact, the Court stated that due to the purpose of the Industrial Design Act including the protection for functional articles which may be exempt from protection under subsection 64(2) of the Copyright Act, the Industrial Design Act “would serve no purpose if it did not protect functional features”.

In view of this recent decision, Industrial Design protection in Canada remains a valuable and very cost effective approach to protecting designs which have both aesthetic and functional features.  Feel free to contact Dean Palmer or Graeme Herring of our patent and design team if you have any questions regarding Industrial Design protection options in Canada, or corresponding design protection options in the US or abroad.

For further questions on this topic please contact Graeme at [email protected].

Graeme Herring | Director & Registered Patent Agent