We Specialise in the protection of your intellectual property rights

Designs

The appearance or configuration of a product may be protectable by unregistered design right and/or design registration.

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UNREGISTERED DESIGN RIGHT

The UK and European Union both recognize legal protection called unregistered design rights for certain designs created by an individual. This gives the designer broad-reaching rights over the shape and configuration of the article or part thereof, to the exclusion of any methods of construction or must-fit/must-match features. Furthermore, these rights can be maintained by displaying the design in a written record or even by simply manufacturing the article itself. In the UK, the copyright-like protections provided by design right lasts for a total of 15 years, with the first 5 years being freely available and the next 10 being licensable under the ‘licence of right’; however, in the European Union these terms are reduced to a period of only three years.

Infringement of unregistered design rights can occur when another entity copies the protected design in the making of their own article; but independent creation of an (appearingly) similar model does not constitute infringement.

REGISTERED DESIGN

Registered design right is a much more extensive form of protection than unregistered design right and must be registered at a national or regional office such as the UKIPO to come to fruition. Alternatively, obtaining an International Registration covering multiple countries is also an option.

Registered design right safeguards a product or part of a product in relation to its external appearance, which could include its “lines, contours, colour, shape texture, materials or ornamentation." Take notice that registered design right does not apply to functional shapes or interconnections. It will only subsist if the overall perception of the “informed user” is that the design is both novel and distinctive.

The duration of protection for a registered design is set at a minimum of 5 years, but it is possible to choose to prolong it to a maximum of 25 years with the payment of appropriate fees every five years.

Obtaining a registered design grants the holder of the right exclusive control over its “use". This term covers the manufacturing, marketing, importing, exporting, stocking and utilisation of any products or materials in which the design is included or which it adorns. Copying a design is not mandatory; independent creation by a third party will not circumvent the infringement.

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We are able to advise with respect to all aspects of design law and can file and prosecute UK, Community and International design registrations on your behalf. Contact us today.

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