Understand different types of IP
1d. Unregistered Design Rights
Unregistered Design Rights subsist automatically and can be a cheap and efficient way of enforcing rights in the appearance of your product without the need to spend time and money on registration. Unregistered Community Designs (UCDs) cover the whole of the EU, whereas UK Unregistered Designs (UKUDRs) cover the UK only.
They are also more flexible than registered design rights in they can subsist in any part of a design and be tailored to protect specific parts of the appearance of a product, based on what has been copied. For example in the case of a microscope, separate unregistered design rights can be claimed in the microscope as a whole, as well as in relation to specific components such as the eyepieces, stand and dials, or any combination of those parts, even if those parts are not separate or discrete. On the other hand, to protect each of those components individually using registered design rights, separate applications would need to be filed.
However unregistered design rights only prevent deliberate copying, i.e. they will not provide protection where a product coincidentally resembles your product, in the absence of copying. It can be difficult to establish whether a third party has copied your design without first commencing proceedings, which is why it can be particularly challenging to base a dispute with a suspected infringer purely on unregistered design rights.
How are they obtained?
UKUDRs and UCDs subsist automatically without the need for registration:
UKURDs: come into existence when an article is made to a particular design, or when a design document is created by a 'qualified person' or by someone employed or commissioned by such a person. A 'qualified person' is someone who is a national or resident of the EU or certain non-EU countries.
UCDs: come into existence when the design is first made available to the public in the EU
What do they protect?
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.
What do they protect?
The 3D shape or configuration of the whole or part your product, provided the design is new and not commonplace in the relevant technical field.
A method of principle of construction.
Features of shape or configuration which:
allow the product to be connected to or placed in, around or against another product so that either product may perform its function; or
are dependent on the appearance of another article of which the product is intended to form an integral part
Similar to registered design rights: 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.
However unlike registered designs, UCDs may also protect the appearance of individual, non-discrete parts of your product.
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.
Protected emblems (e.g. Royal arms and national flags) or third party trade marks or copyright material.
The shape of a digital thermometer.
The 3D configuration of a Virtual Reality headset.