What are Design Rights?
A Design Right relates to the physical appearance of an item or part of it, and can apply to industrial as well as handicraft items. This intellectual property right is not concerned with how the item works but concentrates on the appearance resulting from the features of the product or the way it looks. Contributory features to a product’s appearance include:
What does ‘design’ mean?
A ‘design’ can be anything from handicraft items and one-off artistic works such as a sculpture to a pattern (e.g. a tartan), a fashion garment or a product such as chair. Even graphic icons, such as those on a computer screen, can be registered. In the case of a product, ‘design’ applies to both the product and its component parts. For example, if the handle of a cup had a particular design, that design can be registered in addition to any design that might appear on the cup itself. Design Right protection applies to the design itself and not the article on which it is applied. So, one registration will protect a pattern whether it appears on one teacup or on an entire tea set.
How will my design qualify for registration?
In order for your Design Right to be considered by the Designs Registry, it must comply with the two following tests:
1. It must be novel
The design must not be identical to a design that has already been made public. If your design or product produces a feeling of ‘déjà vu’ (i.e. it reminds a person of an existing product) your application will fail.
Subject to that you have a twelve month period from the date of its public appearance in which to make the application. This is to allow you, the designer, to gauge public opinion before going through the registration process.
2. It must not be excluded from registration
Your design does not have to be aesthetically pleasing (so-called ‘eye appeal’) in order for it to be registered, but your application will be rejected if it is based solely on how the item functions
Are there any designs that cannot be registered?
There are a number of designs that cannot be registered (and therefore remain without design right protection) including certain coats of arms, national flags and insignia.
Can I disclose my design to members of the public?
If you wish to test the market for your particular design, you are allowed a maximum of 12 months in which to file your application from the date of first disclosure. Your design right protection will start from the date of filing once the design is registered, and not from the date of first exhibition.
What benefits are there in registering a design?
Plenty. The most obvious benefit of registering your design right would be the exclusive use to make, sell, distribute and licence the design within the UK, or in Commonwealth countries if you have extended your registration, as mentioned above. A registered design right acts as a deterrent to people who may infringe your design by copying all or part of it. Also, it gives you the right to sue those who do go ahead and copy your design without first obtaining permission. A registered design is a tangible asset that has a monetary value and which will increase in value if you exploit it properly. It is an excellent way to bolster your brand. If your shape, design or item (for example a striped or checked pattern) becomes synonymous with your brand, a registered design is a useful addition to your intellectual property portfolio. The application process is straightforward and offers good value for money.