Italy: The Code Of Self-Discipline Of Italian Industrial Designers

Last Updated: 20 August 1997
The ADI Code of Self-discipline is of the uttermost importance with regard to the legal protection of design works in Italy, not just for ADI (Italian Designers' Society) members, but also as a pattern of fairness which is likely to be taken into account by the Italian courts in deciding design-related matters, as are the decisions of the ADI Tribunal of Design, even though of course they are legally enforceable as such.

Its text, in the version presently in force, may be translated in English as follows:

"1 The object of the Code of Self-discipline (Code) is to ensure that the creations of industrial design are accomplished as a personal piece of work, with no unfair imitation or behaviour. The Code defines and sanctions activities at odds with the aforesaid stipulations, although they may not be censurable according to the rules and regulations of other systems. The rules of the Code and the decisions issued by the Court of Honour express principles of professional propriety in the matter of design.

2 The Code is mandatory for designers, manufacturers and other operators as well as for any association that has accepted it or that has made an unequivocal and binding reference to it. All associations that have agreed to the Code are committed to promote its acceptance on the part of their members, to respect its principles and to publicize widely the decisions of the Court of Honour.

3 For the purposes of the Code the expression "industrial design" indicates the creation, the design, the manufacture and the communication of objects, instruments, machines, parts or accessories, designs of surfaces or other, according to aesthetically and functionally coherent forms. The term "product" includes any result of the activity of industrial design.


4 The imitation and the unauthorised or unlawful exploitation of the result of the work of a third party are considered unfair and should be avoided. In particular, the imitation of other people's work, with no original or innovative contribution, accompanied by the exploitation of other people's work, is considered unfair.

5 The imitation, as well as the systematic exploitation of the form, of the lines, of the colours and also of the significant elements of the articles of other people's industrial design should be avoided. The principle is to be applied with particular rigour when the imitative behaviour can deceive the consumer regarding the origin of the products.


6 The designer, manufacturer or consumer of industrial design products can take action directly or through the associations to which they belong by filing an application to the office for the application of the Code, the Court of Honour, to have it adopt such measures as are considered appropriate.

7 The arguments on which the petition filed with the Self-discipline Court of Honour are based should be such as to bear upon current interest, including those of a moral nature.

8 In a dispute submitted to the examination of the Court of Honour, other parties may take part who may have an interest, in addition to the petitioner and the defendant. The conclusions of the petition for action can have as their object the agreement, even if only partial, with the conclusions of one of the main parties.


9 The Court of Honour consists of 7 members, of whom two are chosen from the designers of products of industrial design, two from manufacturers, two are legal experts and one is an expert in problems of the market. The members of the Court of Honour are appointed by the ADI's Executive Committee. The two representatives of the manufacturers are appointed from a list of 5 candidates proposed by the Chairman of Confindustria (The Italian Association of Manufacturers). The members of the Court of Honour shall sit for two years and may be reappointed. The Court of Honour appoints the Chairman and one Vice-Chairman among its members.

10 The members of the Court of Honour exercise their functions according to their convictions and not in representation of the interests of any category. They are held accountable in compliance with the diligence of the assignee.

11 The Court of Honour examines disputes that are submitted to it and gives its decision in compliance with the Code. If so requested by both parties, the Court of Honour may sit as an arbitration council and decide accordingly.


12 The Court of Honour has its headquarters in Milan at the premises of the ADI. The Court of Honour meets whenever necessary when convened by the Chairman, notice to be given not less than 15 days before the date of the meeting. The meetings of the Court of Honour are open to the public except where otherwise decided by the Chairman. The Court of Honour is validly constituted with the presence of at least 4 members and it adopts resolutions with the majority of members present. The Chairperson has the casting vote in the event of deadlock.

13 After receiving the petition the Chairman of the Court of Honour decides upon the procedure to be followed. If he thinks it appropriate, he appoints one of the members of the Court of Honour to be in charge of the matter under discussion; he decides how many members shall sit in adjudication; he arranges communication to the interested parties whom he summons before the Court of Honour for oral discussion, possibly preceded by an exchange of written arguments.

14 Petitions referring to a dispute submitted to the rules and regulations of the Code of Self-discipline should be addressed to the Court of Honour, containing the name and the registered office or domicile of the petitioner, the capacity of the person signing the petition itself, an indication of the identification of the party against whom the petition is proposed, the object of the petition, the conclusions and a summary, however brief, of the reasons upon which the petition is based.

15 Together with the petition filed with the Court of Honour, the plaintiff must enclose documentation related to the object of the petition and any other documentation necessary and/or useful to decide the controversy. If the petition is filed without the necessary documentation the Chairman of the Court of Honour invites the plaintiff to produce it within a reasonable time. The Chairman of the Court of Honour can also ask the defendant to file a defence with the relevant documentation, if any, within a reasonable time. Non-observance of these time limits cannot be invoked as a cause for lapse if the interested party proves that the delay is due to reasons not attributable to him, or to force majeure.

16 The petition and the enclosed documents shall be produced in as many copies as there are members of the adjudicating panel of the Court of Honour, plus two additional copies, one for the opposing party and the other for the Court files. Documents enclosed with the petition drawn up in a foreign language other than French and English shall be accompanied by a sworn translation.

17 The Chairman of the Court of Honour may request subjects (individuals, companies or bodies) who are not party to the controversy to provide information deemed necessary for the formulation of the final decision.


18 Once the arguments are concluded, the Court of Honour issues its decision in chambers unless it feels it necessary to acquire further evidence. In this case, it returns the case papers to the member of the Court in charge of the matter who will proceed accordingly.

19 In such event, the Court of Honour has the capacity to direct, by means of an ordinance, that discussion, or even, the decision be delayed to a subsequent sitting.

20 At the end of the discussion the Court of Honour shall issue its decision, the text of which is communicated to the parties within five days. The grounds for the decision are filed within 30 days. Decisions adopted by the Court of Honour are final.

21 Once it has been requested for an opinion, the Court of Honour is bound to issue a decision, except that it may declare there to be insufficient grounds or evidence for the formulation of a decision.

22 Reasons for the decisions made by the Self-discipline Court of Honour on industrial design must be provided and must contain an indication as to the victory and compensation of expenses. The drawing up of the decision is entrusted to the member of the Court who is in charge of the case or to another specially appointed member. Decisions include the names of the members of the Court of Honour who have participated in the resolution and are signed by the Chairman and by the member of the Court of Honour in charge of the case.

23 When the decision ascertains imitation or behaviour contrary to the Code's rules and regulations, the Court of Honour invites the parties responsible for conduct contrary to the rules and regulations of the same to cease and desist.


24 A special register is kept at the ADI in which essential identification details regarding the contents of each petition are registered together with those of the corresponding decision. A file from the Self-discipline Court of Honour on design is also created at the registered office of the ADI which will contain all the facts relating to each case. The preservation of such facts in the files of the Court of Honour shall be for a minimum of 5 years beginning with the filing date of the grounds for the decision.

25 The initiation of the procedure before the Self-discipline Court of Honour shall imply the payment of an amount (as reimbursement of secretarial and other expenses connected with the operation of the Court), without prejudice as to any further expense, if any, as may be indicated in the final decision, which shall be indicated at the beginning of each year with a special resolution adopted by the Office of the Chairman of the ADI.

26 For all matters not expressly provided for in the present statute, that are indispensable for the proper operation of the Self-discipline Court of Honour on industrial design, the members of the same Court shall be empowered to adopt resolutions, unanimously, for inclusion in the statute, to be submitted for approval and ratification by those who have promoted the Code of Self-discipline."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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