Registered Design protection is often the unsung hero of Intellectual Property law.
A Registered Design is very effective in terms of enforcing rights against a third party and it is also relatively cost effective when compared to trade mark protection or patent protection.
Quite often a product will be valuable by virtue of its shape or design or specific design features, a Registered Design therefore will assist the proprietor in protecting their rights over these elements.
In the UK we have Copyright laws which protect a design or the drawings of a design. However the main obstacle when claiming copyright and enforcing the same is that there must be proof that claimant was the person who created the drawings or design. It is also important to establish that the ‘infringing’ design was copied by the ‘infringer’ and that it was your design that they copied. This can often prove difficult to establish. There is no formal registration procedure for copyright in the UK and as the creator of the works does not have any official certification which can be shown and used to enforce the rights, this makes things more difficult.
This is where Registered Designs come into play. If you have created (for example) a unique Tea Pot, the design of the Tea Pot can be logged with the UK Intellectual Property Office. If it is accepted (there are various hurdles that the design must jump before it is) then you will be granted a Registered Design over the exact design of your particular teapot.
Once registered the design will give you an exclusive right to produce, manufacture and sell that specific design of Tea Pot in the UK (or wherever you own a registered design).
Once you have a registered design in place you will be able to enforce these rights if you become aware of a third party manufacturing or selling the same design. This action would involve sending a cease and desist letter to the ‘infringer’ setting out your rights, where they are owned and enclosing a copy of the certificate of the design. Whilst it may not be plane sailing from there, the fact that you have an official registration in place will benefit and support your case.
Design protection can be effectively acquired in Europe also. This will afford protection to you for each of the 27 member states and is once again relatively cost effective.
Overall a Registered Design is a very effective way of protecting something that you have created (look and feel). Like all other Intellectual Property it adds to your portfolio and becomes an asset of the company. It can be used to prevent other companies profiting from your creativity or indeed it can be sold or licensed like any other asset.