If you have created an original design – which is not merely an amalgamation of other designs or something which is deemed to be commonplace – the law provides various levels of protection against exploitation of that design. The nature and extent to which your design is protected depends on whether you choose to register it or are satisfied that the automatic rights available to you offer adequate protection.
It is important to understand the distinction between the two types of protection available. Design rights are automatic, much like copyright in the UK, and do not require any form of registration. Protection arising from these automatic rights is available in a limited number of other countries.
Design rights relate only to three-dimensional objects, the only exception being Unregistered Community Designs (UCDs). These apply to two-dimensional objects as well and give three years’ protection in the EU from the date when the design was first made public. UCDs cannot be renewed.
The act of creating the design gives you rights of ownership over it. If an unauthorised person copies it or misuses it in some other way, then you can assert your rights against them. However, the protection afforded has a lifespan of 15 years in the UK, and three years in the EU for UCDs. Neither can be renewed.
Asserting Your Rights
Like copyright protection, you will need to show that the design is yours, so it is very important to keep the initial design files, email correspondence and other evidence relating to it. If someone infringes your design, the onus is on you to show that your design has been deliberately copied. If you plan at some stage to license your design to third parties, it is very difficult to do this if you only have design rights, in which case registration would be a far better option.
Registering a Design
Registering a design entails going through a formal process with the UK Intellectual Property Office and, although there are costs involved, this affords you more protection than that which arises from design rights. Registration gives you protection over two-dimensional and three-dimensional articles and covers the overall appearance of a product, which includes colours, textures, shapes and the use of materials. A registered design can be protected for up to twenty-five years in the UK, but must be renewed every five years. It is possible to extend your design registration to a substantial number of other countries.
Benefits of Registration
The benefits of registration are numerous. In the event that you take action for infringement, there is no requirement to prove that the design was copied from yours. This acts as a deterrent against infringement. Also, because the design has been formally recognised, it is much easier to license or sell to third parties.
Other Intellectual Property Rights
It may be that the article in question requires more than just design registration. Indeed, some products are also trade marked and patented as well as being registered designs. Designs and other intellectual property can be extremely valuable business assets and it is very important to ensure that you have obtained adequate protection to ensure that others cannot profit from unauthorised use.
To discuss how to protect the intellectual propertyassets of your business, contact us.