Registered designs

A registered design protects the appearance of the whole or part of a product resulting from the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product or ornamentation. Therefore, a registered design can cover both 3D and 2D features of a product, which may include surface decorations such as patterns and illustrations.

To obtain a registered design in a particular country most countries provide a procedure which involves filing an application with the appropriate organisation which is then examined for registerability under the relevant law. If there are no objections the design will be registered and a registration certificate will be issued. There are a number of application procedures that cover multiple countries. For example, the Community (European) design procedure and the International (Hague) design procedure can simplify matters and reduce costs in some cases. However, if you want registered protection in a country it is necessary to apply for registration.

A design application has specific legal requirements if it is to be acceptable. It is common for applications to be filed with inaccurate or insufficient representations of the design and since it is generally not possible to change the design, it is important to get it right at the beginning to avoid unnecessary fees and disappointment. Due to little consideration being given to the merits of a design during the application process, many designs are registered that may not in fact be valid. However, in order to achieve a valid and therefore, enforceable registered design, it should be new and the overall impression of the design should be considerably different from the overall impression of other existing designs.

Since the law was not intended to prevent third parties from manufacturing spare parts for articles, there are a number of exclusions to registered design protection. Firstly, UK and Community registered designs do not protect any feature of the design whose appearance is dictated solely by its function. Therefore, if the whole of the appearance has to be a certain way in order to allow it to function, then it is unlikely that the design will be a valid registration. Any features of a design that are required to enable the article to be connected to another article (must fit) or that are dependent upon the appearance of another article (must match) are not protected by a registered design.

Ideally a design is confidential at the time a registered design application is filed, but it is possible to file an application up to 12 months following the first date the design was disclosed.

A registered design is initially in force for a period of five years, but is renewable in five-year periods up to a maximum of 25 years through the payment of renewal fees.

A Registered design enables you to stop third parties from making, offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting, using or stocking a product which is to your design.

There are a number of benefits to owning a registered design. The existence of your registration may act as a deterrent and stop anyone infringing your design. It is also much easier to take legal action against anyone who uses your design without your permission, since you do not need to prove copying – it is irrelevant whether they copied or came up with the design independently. Unlike unregistered design rights, a wider range of features of a design can be protected.

There is no official symbol that is used to show that a design is registered, but displaying the design number on the product once it is registered may act as a useful deterrent.

For an outline of the stages, time scales and typical costs involved in obtaining a registered design, please see our Guide to Design Protection.

Please see our Comparison of Registered versus Unregistered rights for a list of the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of protection.

If you would like to register your design or have a problem or matter concerning a registered design, we would be happy to help.