From the viewpoint of intellectual property, the term "design" applies to the appearance of a product. The appearance of a product depends first and foremost on its form, although other aspects may have an effect, such as colour and materials.

Design is defined by the visible appearance of a product. Even if a product has a technical function, only its appearance is protected by design protection. The goods can be both handmade and mass-produced. Examples of goods that can enjoy design protection include furniture, clothing, packaging, machinery, tools, foodstuffs and jewellery. A product need not be in three-dimensional form to enjoy protection. It can be two-dimensional, such as a screen display on a computer, a graphic symbol, or a decoration on another product, such as wallpaper. The more original and innovative the design is, the greater protection.

Applications submitted to the Icelandic Patent Office apply in Iceland. However, it is also possible to apply for an international registration of a design (Hague system) where, for example, the European Union may be designated. Designs must be new and individual in character when the application is submitted. Registering a design grants the owner of the registration exclusive rights to utilise that design and the right to ban others from utilising the design in question.

By registering a design with the Icelandic Patent Office, it is possible, subject to certain conditions, to protect the design for 25 years.