A design is that aspect of a product that constitutes its ornamental or visual features. The impact and protection of industrial design through artificial intelligence. It plays a crucial role in distinguishing a product from others in trade and depending on how appealing it is, increases business output for the person who is engaged in the manufacture, distribution and selling of the product. An Industrial Design (ID) may be deemed as a process of designing a product that focuses on the functionality and manufacturability of the product apart from just the appearance of it. The crux behind the concept of industrial design is that it provides overall lasting value to the customer or user.
What is different for industrial designs when compared to ordinary designs is that it considers the functionality and convenience of use of the product in the developmental process rather than just using the product to characterize it for the purpose of distinguishment in trade, albeit it is one of the objectives. Industrial design is generally applied to products, which are to be manufactured in mass. Thus, it may be said that it considers both function and form.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be defined as a form of programming that, with or without human input, performs those tasks, which would generally be performed by a person. It has several components such as Machine Learning (ML) that are programmed in a way that it can predict human action in its functioning using Natural Language Processing (NLP) that enables these software or machines to understand and interpret human language.
The primary aim of this article is to analyze how the implementation of AI is impacting Industrial Designs and how AI generated Industrial Designs can be safeguarded with the shield of Intellectual Property Law.
The use of generative AI in the manufacturing of ID is a revolutionary step. The way it functions is by creating multiple designs as per the requirements of the designers, considering all factors such as the performance of the design or the cost to be incurred in manufacturing said design. This leads to the creation of an optimized design that fulfills all necessary criteria. It also performs the function of simulation. In other words, it can produce the design in a manner that the application of said design in practicality can be assessed, thus, aiding in the troubleshooting process of the designers in the developmental process.
The reason for AI being revolutionary in the production of designs can be assessed from what is said above. It increases time management and provides multiple options for the consideration of the designers while attending to all necessary criteria. This cuts down on repetitive corrections or edits in the designs.
An example of the use of AI in the process of industrial design is the manufacture of Adidas’s Future craft 4D shoes. The main addition to these shoes was the addition of a lattice-like sole. This made the shoes comfortable to walk in while being lightweight. They were designed with AI aided 3D printing process with ideas like durability and comfort of the consumers kept in mind to increase product demand.
The company, Herman Miller went a step further and generated their very own AI software LiveOS in collaboration with another company called Fuze Project. This software collects data regarding how people utilize and use office space during work hours. This software was primarily developed with the view of improving sedentary work life in offices and is built in a way to remind employees when they have been inactive with respect to physical movement for too long.
Airbus while designing its A320neo Aircraft model used generative AI. The technology was used to generate its wingtip in a manner that reduced the aircraft’s fuel consumption 3.5 times as compared to the earlier fuel consumption. Moreover, this model shows a 15 percent decrease in fuel consumption as well as reduced noise generation when compared with other aircraft models of today. This brilliant execution is a great example of the use of AI in industrial design while being sustainable for the environment.
In India, Industrial Designs are protected under the Designs Act, 2000. All kinds of designs including Industrial Designs can be protected by way of copyright under the said statute since designs are considered as a form of artistic expression. To protect a design, first it needs to be registered. Subsequently, it shall be granted copyright protection for a period of 10 years from the date of registration. This is contained in Section 11 of the Designs Act, 2000. Section 11(2) of the same Act states, after the expiration of said period, an application of extension of the protection of said design may be made which on the fulfillment of the prescribed fee extends the protection of the design by five more years.
However, the protection of artistic material generated through AI remains a matter of debate and confusion globally. The unprecedented growth of AI has left legislators little time to draft effective statutes that can safeguard people against the negative impacts of AI. The stance of the Indian judiciary with respect to the same is also not of much guidance since AI generated work which would have otherwise been deemed copyrightable if created by a human is considered machine-made. In deciding who is eligible to receive copyright protection of the said work, the consensus has been that it should be the human that has assisted the AI in creating said work. The American judiciary’s stance is the same in this regard as well. However, the UK government, being at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement, has been allowing copyright protection for AI generated designs through their Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 for many years.
While the increasing use of AI in the generation of designs and other artistic work has created serious challenges and ethical dilemmas such as the increased dependency on software and privacy risks, the calculated collaboration of the human mind in producing said designs is crucial for human development and critical thinking. The creation of appropriate legislation for the safeguard of said designs or ideas is paramount. In an age of technological growth, a lag in legal development gives rise to various lacunae that may put people, their data, ideas and safety at risk.