Understand different types of IP
1c. Registered Design Rights
Registered design rights provide a 25 year monopoly over the look of a product, including its appearance, physical shape, configuration and surface decoration, and can be valuable where the way your product looks is key to its marketability or success. EU Registered Design Rights cover the whole of the EU, whereas UK Registered Design Rights cover the UK only.
The scope of a registered design right is defined by the design drawing filed with the relevant intellectual property office, so careful consideration must be given when preparing registered design applications. For example, if a design drawing is submitted in blue, the scope of the registered design may be limited to one colour, whereas a black and white line drawing would not limited in the same way.
For the same reason, separate registered design applications may be necessary if you wish to protect more than one aspect of your design. For example if both the shape and surface decoration of your product are valuable in their own right, submitting separate applications for each aspect of the design would ensure that both are independently protected, whereas submitting a single application containing a drawing of the shape covered in the surface decoration would only protect the combination of the two, and not each aspect on its own. Advice should therefore be sought from a legal professional before you file any design applications.
Design rights do not protect the functional aspects of a product or how it works – these aspects are protected by patents.
Unlike unregistered design rights, registered design rights are infringed by any similar design, irrespective of whether copying was involved.
As with patents, care must be taken not to publicly disclose designs before they are registered, as doing so can preclude you from applying design protection.
How are they obtained?
Applications for UK Registered Designs are submitted to the UKIPO. The timeline below gives a general indication of the steps and timings involved in the application process.
1. Application filed with UKIPO
An optional design search may be carried out prior to filing.
2. UKIPO transmits official filing details
The UKIPO will transmit the official application number and filing date to you
The UKIPO will examine the design application for compliance with the legal definition of "design" and formalities such as whether the views submitted with the registration are consistent with each other. It will not examine the application against other designs or conduct an assessment of novelty.
If the UKIPO has no objections, the design right will be granted and published.
Applications for EU Registered Designs are submitted to the EUIPO. The EUIPO similarly only examines design applications for compliance with formalities and does not examine them against other designs or conduct an assessment of novelty. Design registrations filed online with the EUIPO can often be registered within a couple of days.
What do they protect?
Both UK and EU Registered Design Rights protect the 2D or 3D appearance of your product or its component parts, including lines, contours, surface decoration, colours, materials, texture and shape, provided the appearance is novel and has individual character.
Registered design rights do not protect features of appearance which are:
solely dictated by technical function; or
necessary to allow the product to be mechanically connected to or placed in, around or against another product so that either product may perform its function.
In addition, registered designs may not incorporate certain protected emblems (e.g. Royal arms and national flags) or third party trade marks or copyright material.
The overall appearance of a toothbrush, including its surface decoration and contours.
The appearance and texture of artificial skin equipped with electronic sensors.