Design Rights and the Intellectual Property Act 2014 – Part 1

Unregistered Design Right

Unregistered design right (UDR) provides a useful form of protection given that it subsists automatically providing the relevant requirements are fulfilled. UDR protects the internal or external shape or configuration of an original design. However due to the lack of formal registration, in practice exerting such rights can be complicated. Unregistered designs are also relatively limited in time scale as the length of protection offered is:

  • 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the design was first commercially exploited, i.e. items made to that design are offered for sale or hire.
  • Or 15 years from the date of creation of the design.
  • It is important to be aware that during the last 5 years of protection the design is subject to a licence of right (that entitles a third party to be granted a licence to produce and market products that copy the design).

Registered Design Right (RDR)

Registered Designs protect ‘the appearance of the whole or a part of a product’. This includes, in particular ‘the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product or its ornamentation’. In other words two dimensional designs or surface patterns and the shape and configuration of an original design.

In order to qualify for registration the design must satisfy two main criteria:

  1. It must be new: This means that there must be no existing identical or similar design which only differs in immaterial details.
  2. It must have individual character: It should give a different overall impression to informed users than any other design which has previously been made available to the public. (As part of the above the design must not have been disclosed to the public prior to application i.e. shown at an exhibition or offered for sale).

The period of protection granted by a successfully registered design is 25 years (with the registration having to be renewed every 5 years). The registered design system provides a valuable form of protection. For example registration is not limited to the item to which the design is applied to in the application. The fact that a design is registered puts the public on notice of the value invested in the design and the intention to enforce the rights inherent in this.

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