Original designs for the shapes of three-dimensional products are protected under UK law not by copyright but by design right. Design right doesn’t protect surface decoration, principles of construction, or features necessary for a product to fit to or match another one, for example, some spare parts. Design right comes into existence automatically when a design document or model is created. It lasts for only fifteen years from the end of the year in which the design was created or ten years from the end of the year in which the article was first marketed, whichever is shorter.
Design right is infringed by a person who reproduces a work either exactly or a substantial part of it. But it’s necessary to show that copying has taken place.
The EU also gives automatic, short-term protection to designs that would qualify for registration. The protection lasts for three years from the date on which the design is first made available to the public.
We advise that you maintain good records of when a design was created and when it was first made available to the public.
Unlike copyright or design right, a registered design is a true monopoly: anyone who makes, imports, sells or uses a product with a similar design infringes the registered design, whether they’ve copied the design or created it independently.
An application for a UK registered design must be filed at the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO).
A registered Community (or EU) design is effective throughout all member countries of the EU. An application for an EU registered design must be filed at the European Union Intellectual Property Office which also handles EU trade mark applications.
We can prepare the application and file it for you at the IPO or EUIPO. It’s possible to include multiple designs in a single application. A valid application may still be filed within a one year “grace period” after the design has been made public. But we strongly advise you to consult with us while the design remains confidential.
The IPO and EUIPO do not carry out a search for similar earlier designs so the registration process is extremely quick, just a few days in the case of a Community (EU) registered design.
The cost of filing a design application depends on how many designs are included in the application.
A UK design application costs £445 for the first design and £125 for each additional design. A Community (EU) design application costs £700 for the first design and £240 for each additional design.
These figures exclude VAT but include the official fees; providing advice about the design(s) to be applied for, preparing and filing the application at the IPO or EUIPO; and informing you about the various formal steps such as registration.
A design is initially registered for five years and can be renewed at five year intervals for up to twenty-five years in total.