Design Rights protect the way a product looks. Certain requirements of the product must be met before it can be possible to register it for design rights. If the design has a technical function, then it may not be possible to register a design right for it. It must be new and have individual character; differing any previously existing designs.
By registering a design with the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office, (UKIPO) the design has legal protection over the appearance, the physical shape, the configuration and the decoration, and prevents it from being copied by anyone else other than the owner. Once approved, the Registered Design Rights initially last for 25 years in the UK and the EU, with the product’s rights open for renewal every 5 years. By obtaining registered design rights, the owner will also have a simplified route to taking legal action against an infringement of their designs and/or products. It is a monopoly right, permitting the owner to stop anyone else using the registered design, and giving them the exclusive right to make, use, sell, import or export anything that includes their design.
To apply for Registered Design Rights, an application must be submitted to the Designs Registry of the IPO. The application will be examined within 2 weeks and involves the examination for novelty and individual character. A design that possesses a technical function will likely be denied. If no objections are launched against the design during the examination process, the design will be immediately registered. The applicant has 2 months to respond if an objection is raised. Subsequent to the design’s approval, it will be added to a list of registered designs, and will be placed in the public domain, unless the applicant chooses for it to be deferred for up to 12 months. This application process should be filed for before the design is visible to the public.
Once a Registered Design Right is obtained, and if it is infringed upon, the owner has different routes available to them after launching infringement proceedings. These include damages or an account of profits, an order for delivery up or destruction of the infringing articles, or an injunction to prevent further infringement. By having Registered Design Rights, in comparison to Unregistered Design Rights, this process is made easier, accessible and, often, more successful for the Registered Design Rights owner.
If you choose not to register your designs, they are still protected through their ‘unregistered design rights’. This only protects the shapes and configuration of a 3D object, and protects only the appearance of a purely functional product. The owners of designs that possess only Unregistered Design Rights also face more obstacles in infringement proceedings, another reason why it is more often than not recommended to register your designs.
If you would like advice and/or support in registering for design rights, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with the team at Lawdit today.