Industrial design refers to the original activity of achieving a formal or ornamental appearance for mass-produced items. In a legal sense industrial design refers to the right approved in several countries pursuant to a registration system to protect the unique ornamental as well as non-functional characteristics of an industrial article or product that result from design activity. Visual appeal is one of the considerations that influence the decision of consumers to prefer one product over another. It happens mostly in areas where a variety of products performing the same function is accessible in the market. In these situations, if the technical performance of the different products offered by diverse manufacturers is comparatively equal, then aesthetic appeal as well as cost will determine the consumer’s choice. The legal protection of industrial designs thus serves the significant function of protecting one of the individual elements by which manufacturers achieve market success.

The emergence of protection for industrial designs is closely connected with the development of industrialization as well as methods of mass production. In the United Kingdom, the first law giving protection to industrial designs was passed on 1787. It gave protection for a period of two months to every person who shall invent design and print. The gift and significance of design in the growing textile industries was thereby recognized. Growing recognition of the expansion of industrialization and of the possible application of methods of mass production to most areas of manufacture lead to the continuing extension of design protection until the consolidation achieved in the Designs Act of 1842. It extended protection to any new and unique design whether such design was applicable to the ornamenting of any article of manufacture or of any substance. Design was thereby recognized as a fundamental element of all production and manufacture.

A somewhat similar development of design protection took place in France. The Law on Literary and Artistic Property of 1793 was applied in certain cases to the protection of designs. The growth of the textile industries in particular soon led to the enactment in 1806 of a special law dealing with industrial designs. The Law of March 18, 1806 established a special committee in Lyon accountable for receiving deposits of designs and for regulating disputes between manufacturers concerning designs. While at first intended for industries in Lyon particularly those manufacturing silk, the system of deposit furthermore regulation by particular council was extended to other cities.