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Designs

Q - In an earlier bulletin, it was mentioned that certain designs are not protected by copyright. What is design right and what does it cover?

A - Before a design can be registered, various criteria must be met. Most important is that the design must be new (this is similar to the requirement of novelty for patents) meaning that confidentiality must be maintained prior to an application for registration being lodged.

Unlike copyright, there is no need to have the rights to a design which has been created for you by a contractor assigned to you before you can register the design, provided you have paid for the design to be created. The maximum term of registration is 25 years.

Registering a design gives you monopoly rights to manufacture and import, sell or otherwise deal in articles bearing the design (or one not substantially different) in the UK.

Unregistered designs do not need to have any eye appeal. They must simply be original and comprise some aspect of the shape or configuration of an article, other than surface decoration. This basically covers all kinds of technical designs.

There are no formalities of registration with unregistered design right, and there are no monopoly rights, merely protection against copying. Generally speaking, design right will last for 10 years from the time when the product made to when the design was first put on the market anywhere in the world.

Design right is set to change significantly in the near future as a result of European legislation. Keep an eye out for news of this in future bulletins.