Registered design rights v Unregistered design rights

Registered designs are registered with the Intellectual Property Office. The registered design lasts up to 25 years, as long as renewal fees are paid for 5 years. Once registered, the aesthetic of a product is protected, and various parts of a products design can be protected. These could consist of the colours, shape or surface pattern of the product. In order for the design to be successfully registered it must be unique and fit for purpose. Once registered, you will receive a registered design number, which can be displayed with your design. As designs registrations are territorial, they can be protected within a certain geographical area. The protection provided to the individual is that their design cannot be copied by any other person. Moreover, you have an inherited right to permit or refuse someone from licensing your design. Nevertheless, if your design has been intentionally copied then criminal sanctions may apply.

In contrast, unregistered design rights are produced automatically, without any further action once an original design has been created. The protection in this case can apply to the internal and external shape of the original design. However, only three-dimensional products are protected, thus excluding two dimensional products. The protection only lasts for 10 years from when the product is first available for sale or hire. Contrastingly, the item can be protected for 15 years since first recording the design. Ownership must also be proved in order for the unregistered design to be protected. This can be proved by keeping an audit trail, which proves the date your design was created and any further designs. However, in the last 5 years of protection of the unregistered design, it is subject to an automatic Licence of Right. This implies if others would like to use your design you must grant them licences.

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