In general, design rights protect the appearance of your product or part of it. They can protect the shape of a product, its surface decoration (including colour or texture), or a combination of these features. Design rights also extend to protect a logo or computer icon.
A registered design is valid when it meets certain criteria. Principally, the design must be new and possess individual character. When these criteria are met and the design has been made available to the public in the UK and EU, unregistered design rights may subsist automatically. However, the period of protection for unregistered design rights is short, and the rights are limited to the prevention of copying. Superior protection can be obtained via registration. Registration significantly lengthens the period of available protection to the owner and provides exclusive rights beyond the mere prevention of copying. In many countries outside of the UK and EU, rights to a design can only be obtained via registration. For any product with a degree of visual appeal, Registered Designs are therefore likely to play an important part in your wider IP strategy.
Before commencing use or seeking registration of a new design it is advisable to conduct a search for registered designs of the same overall impression. We can conduct registered design searches by both registered proprietor and the relevant International (Locarno) classification (an alphabetical list of goods which constitute industrial designs, with an indication of the classes and subclasses into which they fall), using our in-house specialist search team or an external search agency. After every search we will analyse the results to assess the potential impact on any aspect of your design filing strategy.
We register designs with the UK Intellectual Property Office and the European Union Intellectual Property Office, or internationally with the Word Intellectually Property Office, via the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs. We can also use our network of trusted foreign counsel to register designs nationally in other countries worldwide. In addition to registration, we will advise you on tactical and commercial issues such as prior disclosure of a design, ownership of design rights (registered or otherwise) and deferral of registered design publication.
On completion of the design filing programme, we can put in place a watching service to check for new applications and registrations filed by third parties in a particular Locarno classification, or in the name of a particular company (such as a competitor). This can help to police for third party adoption of similar designs.
The designs team is made up of patent and trade mark attorneys who have specialist expertise to meet all of your design protection requirements. The main contact is Tom Albertini.