Obtaining Design Protection in the EU

There are three different ways to obtain protection for a design in the whole EU:

1. A registered Community design (RCD) is an exclusive right that covers the outward appearance of a product or part of it. The fact that the right is registered confers on the design great certainty should infringement occur. An RCD initially has a life of five years from the filing date and can be renewed in blocks of five years up to a maximum of 25 years. Applicants may market a design for up to 12 months before filing for an RCD without destroying its novelty.

2. An unregistered Community design (UCD) is defined by the CD Regulation in the same way as the RCD but protects a design for a period of three years from the date on which the design was first made available to the public within the territory of the European Union. An unregistered Community design confers on its holder a right to prevent copying. RCDs and UCDs have to meet the same conditions to be protected.

Unlike a registered Community design, you do not have to file an application to protect an unregistered design. This simplicity does, however, have its downside because the holder of the UCD may encounter problems in proving that the protection exists, and protection exists only against copying.

3. Since 1 January 2008, it has been possible to designate the European Community in an international application for an industrial design filed with the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. WIPO will then register the international application and send it to OHIM. It will have the same effect as applying directly for a Registered Community Design.

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