The visual appearance or ‘design’ of a product, its shape and ornamentation including colour, may be protectable by Registered Design. From furniture to sheds, from jewellery to whisky bottles, from point-of-care devices used in homes and hospitals to wireless device charging mats, many different kinds of products that embody or carry designs are protectable.
Registered Design protection is quite different to Patents. Registered Designs protect the visual appearance of a product – the way it looks; Patents protect the technical function of an invention – the way it works.
In the UK and EU, a Registered Design provides a monopoly right preventing others using the products with the design even if they do not copy. For this protection to have effect, the design has to be validly registered i.e. be
- individual character.
In other words, to be considered novel, it should differ by more than immaterial differences from known designs, and, to have individual character, it should produce a different overall impression on an informed user.
Crucially, in the UK and EU, Registered Designs are not examined. So, if you apply, you get one. However, it is important that it meets the criteria of novelty and individual character to be validly registered. Should you choose to enforce it, it’s validity may well be challenged. Registered Designs can last up to twenty-five years with renewal fees payable every five years in the UK and EU.
Elsewhere, in the USA for example, registered designs - known as design patents - are examined, last for 15 years, and no renewal fees are payable.
As with all IPRs, you should know who created what and when. For example, if you create the design yourself, keep proof of that independent creation. If you ask a third party to create a design for you, ask for written paperwork, such as a formal IP assignment, securing ownership to you, and that in creating the design they have developed it independently, not copying anyone else’s work.
One word of caution, Registered Designs can publish very quickly so could impact on a later filed Patent application – so be careful about timing and content of a Registered Design application and seek advice from a regulated IP professional.
Registered designs can last up to twenty five years. Unregistered designs may arise upon creation of a 3D design in the UK and EU (for now) and may last up to fifteen years in the UK and three years in the EU.
Please contact us for a free initial consultation.