Design Rights
Design Rights Making the intangible, tangible

This information has been adapted from CIPA

Introduction to Design Protection

A significant amount of work may be involved in producing a design, and it is therefore important wherever possible to provide protection for this design work. Design protection can be very important in preventing competitors from using the same or a closely similar design. Design protection may be used when necessary against another party who has produced the same or a closely similar design, and particularly where a design has been copied. Design protection can also be used in licensing a design to third parties and therefore potentially providing an extra income source.

What is a Design?

The recent European Union definition of design is the appearance of the whole or part of a product resulting from features such as the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product or its ornamentation. Such products can include graphic symbols, screen displays, logos, typefaces and packaging. Accordingly the scope of what is meant by ‘a design’ is very broad, and principally falls into two categories, whether the design is two dimensional or three dimensional.

Types of protection available

Three types of protection are potentially available which are summarised below, with further details following.

  • Registered Designs
    As the name suggests, these are obtained by registration, and can protect the appearance of new two dimensional or three dimensional designs.
  • Copyright
    Copyright is a right associated with a particular “copyright work” and is a right to stop unauthorised copying of the work. Copyright is largely applicable to two dimensional designs, but can provide protection for some three dimensional designs.
  • Design Right
    This is an automatic type of protection which provides protection for a limited period for most three-dimensional designs.

 How do I apply for a Registered Design?

In the UK an application is filed at the Designs Registry which is part of the UK-IPO. From April 2003 it has also been possible to file a Community design application at OHIM (Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market).

The form of an application

This usually comprises drawings and/or photographs which show all aspects of the design. Accordingly for three dimensional articles a number of different views may be appropriate. Where the design specifically applies only to part of an object this should be indicated. Registered designs are no longer restricted to particular articles, and cover any article made to that design. It is however necessary to indicate an object to which the design is normally applied. A Community design application can cover a number of different designs in a single application, as long as the objects indicated fall within the same International Design Classification.

Examination procedure

A relatively cursory examination will be carried out, and official objections are possible. Presuming no significant objections are raised registration should be obtained in a matter of months following filing.

Duration of Registered Designs

The term of a registered design is five years from filing, and this period can be renewed for further five year periods up to a maximum duration of 25 years.

What types of design are registrable?

As per the earlier definition a very wide range of types of design can be registered. However to be registrable a design must have novelty and individual character. For novelty the design requires to differ from known designs by more than ‘immaterial details’. To have individual character a design must create a different overall impression on an informed user.

Can I register a design which I have already displayed?

Design legislation has changed in recent years such that a design application at least in the European Union can be validly filed up to a year after a design has been made public. It is however advisable to file design applications as soon as possible and particularly as the matter may become quite complex if a third party were to file or disclose the same or a similar design before your application.

What protection does a registered design provide?

A registered design provides a monopoly protection usable to stop other people producing the same or a similar design, whether or not they have copied your design.