The designer’s rights in real life

The origin of products and ideas, honest and professional work, and protecting and defending one’s own creative work occasionally provoke lively discussion. Where does on draw the line between inspiration and copying, and how does one protect and defend one’s own creative work? 

We put together five perspectives for professional measures that appreciate design

1. Respect for original design 

Professional work involves fair competition and the appreciation of colleagues. Our Ethical Guidelines for designers support good professional practices in the industry. Professionals understand and respect their own intellectual property rights, as well as the intellectual property rights of other professionals and creators, and also pass on information about these rights to clients.  Every designer should base their reputation and profession on his or her own design work, not on copying others. This is a clear and simple rule of professional designers. 

 Our Ethical Guidelines for designers, which we renewed in 2023, are based on international guideline templates for the design industry and on feedback from our members. They contain instructions for designers on how to handle clients, the profession and colleagues. Companies that come out with many products and collections cannot protect every single one of their products. Copying any products, including unprotected ones, is a highly ethically questionable. Let us cherish the prestige of the industry and commit to the principles of ethical action together. 

Read our Ethical Guidelines for designers

2. Taking fair influence 

Designing products, works and creative ideas does not happen in a vacuum. Creative work essentially involves being inspired by the “spirit of the time”, one’s own environment and previous designs. However, one’s own work must be an independent and original interpretation. By following these rules of thumb, you can work professionally and avoid further harm. 

3. Your marketing must allow the contractor to be on the map 

A creator of an original work or design has an exclusive intellectual property (copyright or industrial property) right, e.g., to manufacture and market products. A company that manufactures or markets products must find out what kind of products are already on the market and whether they include products that can be mixed with its own production. This is part of the contractor’s obligations. A company cannot plead ignorance, especially if the company has not carried out reasonable market research.

“Every designer should base his or her reputation and profession on their own design work, not on copying others. This is a clear and simple rule of professional designers.

4. Register, copyright & do business 

The design and shape of new products has its own form of protection, just as the brand of a good or service and new inventions has their own.  The core of creative work is not only based on protecting one’s creative work against copying, but also on using types of copyright to commercialise a product or internationalise a company, or as part of a scalable business. Intellectual property (IP) rights include, for example, copyright, design copyright and trademark, as well as patents and utility models to protect inventions. With the various types of copyright for design, a designer or company can secure an exclusive right to the products they design, and also trade them, for example, by selling access rights to them. The Ideas Powered for business SME Fund is a grant scheme designed to help EU-based enterprises protect their intellectual property (IP) rights. Thus, in 2024, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will again be eligible for funding from the Ideas Powered for business SME Fund.

The most important type of copyright in the industry is the design right, which an applicant can register for themselves from the Finnish Patent and Registration Office. The registration is valid for 5 years from the date of application and can be renewed four times, i.e. for a total of 25 years ahead. The design right protects the appearance of a product or its part. It protects the design, but not the idea or plan.  

A design may also benefit from copyright protection, which arises for a natural person without registration. Such products are protected by the Finnish Copyright Act. 
The importance of copyright as a form of design protection should not be underestimated, although we always recommend protecting new designs with a design right.  

EU judicial practice has confirmed that the level of originality required for commercial art is the same as for other art forms. 

5. You should also safeguard your own rights!  

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in product copying, and it is a hot topic among designers and design companies.  

When product copying is suspected, it is worth remembering that the assessment is based on the overall impression. The end products of industrial design and design can often be protected through different forms of protection. For example, in the case of patterns, in addition to design protection, you can also talk about copyright and copyright infringement. 

Ornamo does not represent any parties in court. However, if you are a member, and suspect that your rights have been violated, it is worth contacting Ornamo’s lawyer. You can book an appointment by contacting our helpdesk. We will look into your situation together and give you an assessment of how to proceed smartly. We do not represent any parties in court, but we do offer advice and consultation. If you suspect that someone is imitating your own work, you should contact the suspected designer or company directly. If necessary, you can take your case to the Market Court, which is a special court.  A decision on imitation can only be made by a legally valid judgment in the Market Court. 

In the field of design, the copyright threshold is higher, but if necessary, you can also request a free statement from the Copyright Council. Make a written, informal request for a statement on the website of the Ministry of Education and Culture. You can also send a request by email ( )

Ornamo does not represent any parties in the Market Court, but we provide legal advice and consultation to our members.