A registered design can provide the owner with the exclusive right to making, offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting or using of a product in which the same or a similar design is incorporated and is advisable if you wish to protect the appearance of something, such as a 3D object or 2D design, but the design must be new and have individual character. A registered design also protects the overall appearance of a product, i.e. the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials, but excludes those elements whose appearance is determined by their function.
UK and EU design registration is relatively inexpensive and normally quite a speedy process as the application is not examined to check whether the design is new and has individual character. A valid design registration may be obtained in the UK if the application is filed within the 12 month grace period from first publication of the design.
Many countries have design protection laws, however the term, level of protection and availability varies and some require absolute novelty of a design in order for a registration to be valid. In the UK and EU there are two main forms of protection available:
• Registered design is a monopoly right to use a design. In the EU the monopoly lasts for an initial period of five years and may be extended in five-year terms up to a maximum of 25 years. Registered designs are territorial so any foreign filings must be made within six months of the original national filing, however a Registered Community Design application (EU) filing may suffice at the outset.
• Unregistered design (Design Rights in the UK) is created at the time an article is made or drawn which has ‘an appearance that is not substantially the same as an earlier design’. The owner has rights to prevent copying, importing or sale, over a term which varies depending on the country or area. In the UK, a maximum protection period of ten years from the first marketing of an article made to a design applies, with a 15-year limit of 15 years from creation. Certain free unregistered rights arise automatically, but these have less protection and a shorter term than registered designs as they rely on the original design having been copied.
Intellectual Property law is very complex so it is advisable to seek specialist advice before proceeding. Contact our team today to obtain professional advice on protecting the design of your product to maximise this cost effective and efficient form of intellectual property rights.
Alternatively, you might want to have a look at our dedicated Intellectual Property Lawyer website – packed with information and articles about all aspects of intellectual property law – ranging from copyright to design rights.