Registering Designs

What are Registered Designs?

A Registered Design protects that overall impression of a design or drawing. It is an invaluable and somewhat inexpensive protection and assists in protecting those works which, whilst being protected by copyright, benefit from the extra protection. A registered design costs approximately £50 online and £60 for paper format. This is relatively quick and quite easy to do.

Reasons for a Registered Design

A registered design gives a 25-year monopoly right in the design.

Registration gives the exclusive right to make articles incorporating the design, allowing the owner to sue for infringement even where the defendant did not copy the design. If a registration is not obtained, the owner of the design would need to depend on a design right, which only lasts for ten years from the end of the year of first exploitation or where applicable, copyright (for example, where an artistic work is involved). In the case both of design right and copyright, the owner would need to prove that the defendant had copied the design in order to succeed in an infringement action.

Obtaining a registered design is fairly short and inexpensive. Registration indicates that the owner has incurred time and expense in protecting his design, which serves as a warning to others that the design is valued. From a commercial point of view, the fact of having a registration may help build up the reputation and goodwill relating to the product concerned, particularly when used with a strong trademark.

Main features of a Registered Design

Registered designs can protect three-dimensional and two-dimensional designs and can be a one-off design.

The design is protected across all sectors and is not restricted to the product to which it was originally applied, for example, typefaces and designs for plates or cars. Parts of articles can be protected as designs, provided that they are visible in normal use. A design must be new. An identical or very similar design must not have been disclosed anywhere in the world prior to the application. The designer does have a 12-month grace period, after disclosure in which to file their application for a design. The design must have ‘individual character’ and it must give a different overall impression from previous designs. The design need not have artistic merit. Specific designs are excluded, namely computer programs, features which are solely dictated by the product's technical function, and ‘must fit’ features (that is, features that are necessary to allow an article to fit another article). Modular systems are allowed. Protection can last for 25 years, and the procedure for registration is relatively low-cost and quick, making it an attractive form of protection.

Article supplied by Lawdit Solicitors, specialists in intellectual property, internet and e-commerce issues. Lawdit offers discounted fees for all Freelance Alliance members.

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