Design Rights

A design right protects the ‘design’ of an item against theft. These intellectual property rights can be gained over industrial products right through to innovative handicraft items.

The protection awarded by a design right covers the looks and features of the product rather than its function or mechanism. The following qualities can contribute to individuality of a design:

  • Colour
  • Shape
  • Material used
  • Lines and shading
  • Contours
  • Texture
  • Dimensions

The owner of a design right has exclusivity over the combination of these qualities and features and can prevent others from using the ‘design’ with his/her permission.

What is a design?
A design in its basic form is a graphic representation of an item. A design right can therefore be awarded over numerous different products, art, sculptures and electronic icons (non extensive list). When looking at a product, the elements of the ‘design’ will not only apply to the product itself but any individual components that it may have. For example; on a branded vacuum cleaner not only will the main design of the vacuum cleaner be protected, but also the design of the handle and its appliances. Some designs are made to be applied to numerous different products. In situations such as this, the product itself will not be protected, rather the pattern of the design will be.

What are the requirements for registration of a design right?
In order for the Intellectual Property Office to register your design, you must satisfy the following three requirements:

  1. The design must be completely new. This means that no identical design is out there currently for the use or viewing of the general public.
  2. The design must have an ‘individual character’. This means that there should be no ‘similar appearing’ design out there for the use or viewing of the general public.
  3. The design must not be excluded from being registered. Although your design does not have to be aesthetically approved in order to be registered, it must be based upon more than just an item’s functions.

Are there any exceptions to what can be registered?
Yes. You are unable to register certain coats of arms, national flags and insignia.

Can I test the market before I get my design registered?
Yes. If you want to expose your design to the general public in order to assess a response, you can do this for a maximum of 12 months before you are compelled to register for protection. If you exhibit your design in the public eye for longer than 12 months you become barred from registering for a design right.

When you register for your design right it will be protected from the date of filing (once it is registered) not from the date which you exposed it to the general public.

What are the financial benefits of registering my design?
The major financial benefit of registering your design is that you are able to sell, assign or licence your design right in return for capital. Treat the right as you would an ordinary asset even though it is intangible. Although initially your design is only registered in the UK, you can extend it to cover Commonwealth countries. The design right will also add value to an intellectual property portfolio and has the potential to push forward a synonymous product or brand.

A design also has the potential to increase in value over time and because of this, many people see registration as a future investment.

What are the other benefits of registering my design?
Having a design which is legally registered, acts as a deterrent to members of the public from copying your design without permission. If you do find that someone has copied your registered design it becomes an ‘infringement’ of your legal rights. This means that you are able to sue that person for damages.

How long will my design right last for?
Your design right will last either 10 years after the initial marketing of the relevant product which exhibits the design, or 15 years after its creation (whichever is the earlier).

You can actively prevent anyone from copying the design for the first 5 years after registration. After this period expires the design is then held as a ‘license of right’, this means that the public are able to get a licence to sell products using your design.

Using a Design Rights Lawyer
A design rights lawyer can help you in the following ways:

  • Offer expert advice about whether or not you are entitled to register your design right and help ascertain the value of the registration
  • Help you protect your work effectively
  • Enforce your legal rights
  • Produce contracts for the assignment or sale of your design rights
  • Negotiate or meditate with design right infringers, or where necessary take action before the court

Our intellectual property services can make sure that you as an individual get the best from your designs. We can also help you use intellectual property as a strategy to encourage the growth of your business.

Contact our Intellectual Property Lawyers
We advise clients nationwide about their design rights – from Bournemouth to Sheffield, Coventry to Cardiff. For more information about our UK intellectual property services, all our specialist Intellectual Property Solicitors today for a FREE first phone consultation on 0800 1404544 or use the contact form below:

FREEPHONE 0800 1404544

Comments or questions are welcome.

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