This article has been written by Mustafa Khan pursuing a course on How to Use AI to Grow Your Legal Practice from LawSikho.

This article has been edited and published by Shashwat Kaushik.


In Indian intellectual property rights circles, the industry’s designs are seen as significant in ensuring that some industrial creatives have the chance to get identified. The mechanism of the law came about after the failure of the Patents and Designs Protection Act of 1872, which was in charge of protecting the millions of investments that went into products. Thus, the process of globalisation through the years has been the evolution of India into a WTO member in 1995 and the passing of the Design Act of 2000. It aimed to go beyond only fulfilling international responsibilities and relying on existing laws. On the contrary, it was loaded with scientific innovations as well as maintaining the status quo through provisions that protect industrial designs.

The provisions of Section 47 stand to be one of the most critical contributing factors investigated in Designs Act enforcement. No less, the central government response is on this part of the implementation with the enactment of the Design Rules of 2001 on the 11th day of May. This was revised in 2008, in 2013, and, also, reviewed little after 4 years. In every remaking of the regulations and laws of industrial design, it has been more precise. December 2021 saw the conclusion of the last rules of this legal regime, by the Government of India through the Designs (Amendment) Rules under DIPP. The amendment was for retroactive application but from the date of notification. [check] Now the amendment can be recalled, which was made in 2014 through the Designs (Amendment) Rules. This last paragraph concentrates on the effects of this last amendment and tries to clarify the concept of Indian law on industrial designs and the rights and duties of the industrialist.

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Overview of design law in India

Think of a scenario where your phone’s contours, the ornamental designs on your sari and brand logos are not shielded by law. That, my friend, was the situation for design in India not so long ago. However, do not worry; design law has stitched its way into the constant of Indian jurisprudence, guarding creative creativity and encouraging innovation. Let us now embark on a tour through this intriguing domain, tracing the historical roots and unveiling the recent changes due to the Designs (Amendment) Rules, 2021.

Historical perspective of design law

The year 1872 saw the advent of design protection in India with the Patent and Designs Act, which was introduced to safeguard designs. By recognising the increasing importance of protecting original works, especially in the 18th century, this legislative move paved the way for acknowledging the value existing within design innovation. The Design Act came into operation with its enactment, which defined a new era in design protection law dedicated to India by consolidating and refining it after centuries. This legal framework evolved through various treaties until eventually receiving universal recognition as part of what constitutes intellectual property rights internationally. Largely designed to promote innovation in various fields, this legislation has proven to be quite dynamic since 2008, when it underwent a significant change through the Designs Amendment Rules that introduced an elaborate categorization system corresponding to international standards. The Design Act aimed to strike a balance between protecting the rights of designers and fostering innovation. By granting exclusive rights to the creators of original designs, the Act incentivized creativity and artistic expression. It also established a registration system for designs, providing legal recognition and protection for registered designs. This system helped prevent the unauthorised use or imitation of registered designs, ensuring fair competition and safeguarding the economic interests of designers.

The Design Act provided a much-needed boost to India’s design industry, encouraging designers to innovate and create with confidence. It fostered a culture of respect for design rights and promoted the recognition of design as an essential aspect of intellectual property. Moreover, the Act aligned India’s design protection laws with international standards, facilitating trade and collaboration with other countries.

Overall, the Design Act played a pivotal role in shaping India’s design landscape. It laid the foundation for a robust and dynamic design industry, contributing to economic growth and competitiveness. By protecting the rights of designers and promoting creativity, the Act has left an enduring legacy of design protection in India. Apart from legal complexities, the very core of the Design Act of 2000 as amended lies in its undying determination to foster and encourage creative pursuits within the industrial environment.

Evolution of the Designs (Amendment) Rules, 2021

The Designs (Amendment) Rules 2021, published on January 3, represent one of the great steps in design law. These amendments provide for the classification of articles in design applications based on their current version, the International Classification for Industrial Designs (Locarno Classification), published by the WIPO. Significantly, the applicants are allowed to cite the 13th Edition of Locarno Classification, which becomes effective from January 2021 until WIPO releases a new classification. The updated Locarno classification comprises 32 classes and 217 subclasses, coupled with lucid notes that help improve the accuracy of the design classification. With the Amendment Rules, a fair and inclusive paradigm is brought into play regarding start-ups, small entities & natural persons, as design regulation applies to them in equal terms.

Key changes brought in by the Amendment Rules

The Designs (Amendment) Rules 2021 affect various aspects of how creators of different pieces of art and design maintain their creative designs. The key changes brought in by the Amendment Rules are as follows:

Speaking the global language of design

Before this amendment, designers had issues like relationships with other designers who spoke different languages. However, amendments apply to the latest version of Locarno classification, which is a universally accepted language for design that facilitates international collaborations and comparisons for protection.

Startups take centre stage

This amendment targets “startups” who are given preferential treatment. Reduced charges made it easier for designs to be protected. This supports innovativeness and empowers future design kingpins.

Fees get a friendly redesign

The amendment brought good news to everyone in it; individuals, startups and small entities. Given a deal with a significant discount following a change in rate plan. It is creativity not broken by the bank that everyone should show according to this amendment.

Paperless power

The amendment has provisions that also welcome the digital age and electronically file a document. This, therefore, means that the designer can simply do a one-click submission of their design application using this paperless power and not only does it ease time and resources but also supports transparency as well as convenience. 

Clarity is key

The amendment wanted not to use complicated legalese words, definitions and procedures for clarification, so the design registration process became more approachable. Therefore, the amendment is designed to help explain matters in simple English so you can release your creative talent.

Thus, the Design (Amendment) Rules of 2021 emerge as a very progressive design culture in India. The evolution encompasses the design applications’ filing process and reduced fees that create a favourable environment for the increased registration of designs. The uniformity of the applied classes and subclasses of the Locarno Classification published by WIPO provides clarity about differentiating technical design works that comply with international standards. It is especially useful for small entities, including start-ups as the amendment makes it cheaper and provides simple guidelines.

Comparative analysis with early design rules

The path of design law in India has had its fair share of revisions, each erasing and reducing the patterns for the protection of creative minds. The Designs (Amendment) Rules 2021 are a great evolution and it has become inevitable to compare them with their old versions to analyse their effects on creators or innovators. Let us then put on our legal spectacles and begin this comparison.

Classification conundrum

Before the changes, battling through the classification system was like trying to understand hieroglyphics. The tenth edition of the Locarno classification, which was narrow and unsuitable, was not also suitable for international coordination or discrimination. The 2021 Rules introduce the thirteenth edition, providing a wider lexicon for design expression in tandem with other countries and enabling cross-country comparisons more effortlessly. This coordination not only simplifies foreign partnerships but also improves transparency and predictability for applicants.

Startups soar

The former government gave very little comfort to budding entrepreneurs. The 2021 Rules, appreciating the central role that start-ups play in driving innovation, developed specific categories and lowered registration fees. This special support works as a launch pad, advancing the fledgling business into the design protection stage and enriching diverse voices in the world of design.

Fee flexibility

The charges that were presented earlier possessed a long ascent for people and small organisations. The amendments present forward-thinking policies that provide generous fee deductions for these groups. Actually, the move democratises design protection, which makes it affordable and attractive for many people to join the design network. Think of it as a figurative elimination or removal of barriers in the sense that more diverse creators can now exhibit their talent for better design.

Efficiency encompassed

The pre-amendment process, which relied on the paper mode of making institutions, had resembled a maze. The 2021 Rules integrate the digital era by allowing “electronic filing of papers,” making them easier to access and read. This fastens the application process, relieves administrative costs, and encourages public oversight. Seeing mountains of paperwork replaced with a few clicks, the new rules create an image of efficiency and convenience for applicants and the Design Office.

Clarity canvas

The previous regulations, in some situations, looked like an enigma inside a riddle. The amendments seek to promote clarity by redefining the terms and putting the process in order. Consider it an instruction manual with features that allow applicants to enjoy registration for designing without struggle. This helps to promote accessibility and lower ambiguity while striving towards a stronger and more inclusive regime on design protection. 

Beyond the brushstrokes

Although these amendments present an optimistic picture, there are hurdles to overcome. Some of the critical strokes that need to be executed are increasing awareness among stakeholders, building a proper legal framework and facilitating collaboration with other intellectual property laws. As law students, our function must be to unravel the intricacies of such changes and their possible repercussions so that we can push for better reforms.

Issues associated with the amendments

With each passing day, the design law in India is becoming more dynamic and with it comes the Designs (Amendment) of 2021 that acts as a bit of hopeful scenery but there are still quite a few blemishes on this canvas. As law students, it is our duty not only to applaud what has been realised but also to spell out the challenges and concerns that are likely ahead of those amendments. The Amendment Act introduces several noteworthy improvements. Firstly, it expands the definition of “design” to encompass a broader range of creative expressions, including graphical user interfaces and typographic arrangements. This aligns with the evolving nature of design and ensures that emerging forms of creativity are adequately protected. Additionally, the Act provides for the registration of design applications with provisional specifications, allowing designers to secure priority while they refine their designs. This provision offers greater flexibility and encourages innovation.

However, there are certain areas where the Amendment Act falls short. One major concern is the exclusion of spare parts from the scope of design protection. Spare parts often incorporate distinctive designs and play a crucial role in the overall functionality and aesthetic appeal of products. By excluding them, the Act creates a loophole that could potentially undermine the protection of design rights. Another challenge is the lack of clarity regarding the threshold of originality required for design registration. The Act does not provide specific guidelines or criteria to determine when a design is considered to be original. This ambiguity leaves room for subjective interpretations and may lead to inconsistencies in the registration process. Furthermore, the Amendment Act does not address the issue of design piracy effectively. While it introduces enhanced penalties for infringement, the absence of stringent measures to combat counterfeiting and unauthorised reproduction remains a significant concern. Design piracy poses a serious threat to the creative industries, and stronger enforcement mechanisms are necessary to safeguard the rights of designers. In light of these challenges, it is essential for policymakers, legal professionals, and design communities to engage in thoughtful discussions and work towards further improvements to the design law. By addressing the aforementioned concerns and implementing comprehensive reforms, India can foster a robust design ecosystem that encourages innovation, protects intellectual property rights, and promotes economic growth.

Industry feedback and responses

The fact states that reception to the Designs (Amendment) Rules of 2021 in the industry has mostly been positive. The implementation of the last Locarno classification is considered a positive trend, simplifying the filing procedure for designs related to newly developed goods. The division of start-ups as particular category applicants and the fees craze allotted to small bodies have received admiration. Unfortunately, concerns still prevail as regards the fine application of these rules, particularly in establishing design rights for certain categories.

Potential resolutions and recommendations

Correcting the issues that have been identified requires well-defined recommendations from the Designs Office for comprehension of interpretations. Especially as to guidance regarding application in classifying designs, new provisions It is recommended to reconsider the interpretation given by the Designs Office for GUI as per new rules. Secondly, continuous interaction between industry members is critical in addressing practical and timely implementation challenges during their enactment and developing appropriate remedies.

 In conclusion, the Designs (Amendment) Rules 2021 mark a lot of modifications in design law within India. This, however, only after reaching the right amount by carefully implementing these amendments along with consistent evaluation and adjustment to ensure that they effectively volunteer in enhancing design activity and provide adequate protection for designs within Indian law.

Recommendations for stakeholders

The Designs (Amendment) Rules of 2021 have created a new landscape for design law in India with both opportunities and challenges. While we are aspiring legal minds, our responsibility does not stop at analysis but continues to give concrete suggestions for various stakeholders operating in this dynamic environment.

Suggestions for designers and applicants

Embrace the digital realm

Seamlessly incorporate e-filing processes and look for online resources to leverage the benefits that this new process will bring, just as one learns new art tools for more creativity.

Seek clarity

Get rid of ambiguities in legislation by consulting lawyers, since law application depends on it as much as art appreciation before the unveiling of a masterpiece.

Stay informed

Keep track of the industry forums and legal bulletins on updated interpretations, and at the same time, have awareness of parallels regarding art trends and techniques.

Explore the startup advantage

If there is the opportunity of eligibility, one can benefit from the reduced fees and support; and timely design protection being regarded as a grant is financially available for startups towards the display of artistic work at famous exhibitions. 

Balance novelty and originality

While attempting to be creative, keep in mind that you meet more stringent requirements relative to novelty and originality, possibly trying a professional for broad prior art searches like distinctness and the absence of infringement in the art.

Guidance for legal practitioners

Lawyers should gain deeper insight into the case law, amendments and international trends to provide refined legal advice. Law advocates assist in bridging the communication gap between designers and the legal system by simplifying complex legal terms and translating them into understandable terms It is incumbent upon one to broaden the definitions of “startup” and refine analysis on novelty and originality to encourage wider participation. It encourages fair competition. Also, technology should be embraced as it integrates e-filing platforms and other digital tools into practice to streamline client service and improve productivity. Application of current technology to manage documents, submissions and laws easily. Collaboration with colleagues and regulatory authorities in pursuit of the amendments and harmonisation of the design laws with other intellectual property laws is geared towards having a consistent and more effective legal framework for design protection.

Insights for regulatory authorities

Prioritise clarity

Let’s engage in detail the clarifications and guidelines for the doubtful and unclear provisions; we want to decrease the number of argumentation-based disputes, provide transparency, conduct a correct assessment and thus have clear instructions and rubrics for the artists.

Bridge the digital divide

Develop training and introduce electronic filing platforms, which will be available to all as one of the methods of solving the digital divide. Similar to training workshops and user-friendly online platforms, these approaches need to be considered as much as creating tutorials for creative artists with low digital literacy. Initiate channels of communication with stakeholders for getting feedback and handling issues, as well as use a commonality approach in amendments by holding regular meetings between artists, organisers and lawyers to voice out concerns.


Adoption of the Designs (Amendment) Rules, 2021, into the Indian design law scenario is a great move to adopt international standards. The inclusion of the newest version of the Locarno Classification, taking into account start-ups as a particular category and also decreasing the costs for small companies, all show the wish to make a more simple and democratic design registration process. The good sides for these amendments in the industrial sector are creation and employment but this should be checked to avoid the establishment of wrong ideas. Implementation deliberately and continuously is important to ensure the achievement of expected results as well as the rules to stimulate the design activity or else to hold designs secure in India. Ties with the stakeholders, i.e., designers, applicants, lawyers and regulatory bodies, will greatly play a role in resolving the issues and establishing a perfect framework for the ultimate results. The foreseeable future of the design law in India seems bright, as it will create a nourishing environment enabling the development of emerging design enterprises. From the analysed rules of the modifications, it is found that the cause of the amendments is to improve the efficiency of the ‘Industrial Design’ registration system in India. Within the Design Act 2000, “startups” are covered under the ambit and the safeguarding scope has been widened, plus the fees for startups have been reduced, which is an encouragement for increased design activities. The introduction of the Locarno classification by the Indian Design Laws is commendable, as the country’s legal system follows world standards. 



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