The Importance of Registered Designs

Your brand is arguably your most valuable asset, registering a trade mark is a first step to protecting this but registering design of the items being sold is also an important step. It is this second step that is often overlooked. The availability of design registration is extensive as it is potentially available for any design applied to or incorporated in a product. So it can be anything from sculptures and handicrafts, to clothes and jewellery as well as mechanical/engineering item. It can cover not only products in the traditional sense but also for example logos and even the appearance of screen displays including web pages.

 Registration of a design provides the owner with a property right in relation to the subject matter of the registration. Without this you will be relying on unregistered design rights which although automatic are much harder to prove and in some cases more limited. For example in relation to clothing often the only right available in the absence of registration is under European design right which only lasts for a period of 3 years whereas if a design is registered it can be protected for a period of up to 25 years.

 A registered design protects “the appearance of the whole or a part of a product”. This includes, in particular “the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product or its ornamentation.”

 In order to qualify for registration the design must satisfy two main criteria: Â

· it must be new: Â

This means that there must be no existing identical or similar design which only differs in immaterial details.

 · It must have individual character: Â

It should give a different overall impression to informed users than any other design which has previously been made available to the public.Â

These will both be defeated if the design has been disclosed, for example by way of exhibition or offering for sale, more than 12 months prior to application.Â

To qualify for registration the design as applied to the product must be visible during normal use of the item.

In terms of cost it is also a relatively cheap form of protection when compared to trade marks, particularly as now both the UK and European Registries allow multiple designs to be included within one application thus. Both Registries charge a basic fee for the first design and then a reduced fee for each additional design.

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