According to the Registered Designs Act 1948, a ‘design’ means the appearance of the whole or part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself or its ornamentation.
An effective design will inevitably be copied, thus intellectual property plays an important role in protecting a successful design. A number of intellectual property rights have in the past been used to protect a design, such as copyright and patent law.
There are two types of design right which exist in the UK- the registered design right and the ‘design right’, the latter of which was created by Part III of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. If you can imagine a continuum of intellectual property law with patent law on the one side and copyright on the other, registered design would sit nearest to patent law, as both require a registration process, whereas the ‘design right’ subsists automatically as does copyright. In addition to this, copyright law can be used to protect any documents such as a diagram or a drawing of the design. There are also the registered and the unregistered rights at Community level. Arguably, design law is thus unnecessarily complex due to the many types of protection.