In a legal sense, an industrial design constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article.

An industrial design may consist of three dimensional features, such as the shape of an article, or two dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color.

In principle, the owner of a registered industrial design or of a design patent has the right to prevent third parties from making, selling or importing articles bearing or embodying a design which is a copy, or substantially a copy, of the protected design, when such acts are undertaken for commercial purposes.

Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of products of industry and handicraft items: from packages and containers to furnishing and household goods, from lighting equipment to jewelry, and from electronic devices to textiles. Industrial designs may also be relevant to graphic symbols, graphical user interfaces (GUI), and logos.

Industrial design continues to shape the world in which we live. It affects everything we use, how we use it and how things are improved. For a typewriter, it may have been how and where the keys were placed or whether the carriage return was on the left or the right. For an automobile, it could be where to locate the airbags, a switch, or the slant of the windshield. It even affects space capsules and submarines. How dials and switches are positioned affect ease and speed of accessibility and use, both physically and psychologically.

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