Designs determine the success of products. The Intellectual Property Office received more than 25,000 design applications in 2019. That’s an increase of more than 300 per cent from 2015.
If you want your product to perform well in the marketplace, you need to have design rights. But you can’t just rush your design out and assume that you have full legal protections.
What is a design in the legal setting? What qualities can a registrable design have? How can you register your design, and what are your rights?
Answer these questions and you can successfully market and manufacture a line of products. Here is your quick guide.
The Basics of a Design
“Design” has a specific legal meaning in the United Kingdom. A design is the appearance of a part or the entirety of a product.
The appearance includes the lines, colours, and contours of the product. It also extends to the shape, texture, and materials that make the product up. Ornamentation can be included if it is a significant part of the design.
The design can impact how the product operates. A vacuum may have a thin design so it can slide underneath furniture. But the design is largely for eye appeal.
Qualities of Intellectual Property Design
Not all designs can receive formal intellectual property protections. A design must be new with its own individual characteristics. A design is new when no identical design is available to the public. Two designs can share details, but the details must be insignificant.
Individual characteristics focus on the impression that the design makes on the user. A user must recognize that it is different from other ones. They must be able to point to particular features that are distinct in the design.
Certain designs cannot receive registration. A design that is dominated by its technical function is not registrable. A key must fit into its lock, so it cannot be registered.
Features that must be of a certain shape or size to fit into another product are not registerable. You can register a countertop. But you cannot register the bolts you use to secure the countertop to the counter.
How to Register Your Design
Make sure your design is new and has individual characteristics. If you think it does, you should check the registers with the UK Intellectual Property Office. As an extra precaution, you can look at the EU Intellectual Property Office or the World Intellectual Property Organization as well.
If there are no competing designs, you should prepare illustrations of your work. You can use photographs, computer-aided design, or line drawings. They cannot contain text, including measurements of the individual components.
You can then register your design online. You must fill out an application that provides your contact information. The application takes some time and effort to fill out. Contact an intellectual property lawyer to expedite the process. Even if you can fill out the application, have them read your work over to make sure you have made no mistakes.
It will take roughly two months for you to receive a reply. If the Intellectual Property Office accepts your work, you will receive an automatic registration. If you get declined, you can request a hearing within two months.
Your registration lasts for five years. You will then need to renew it. You can register your design for 25 years before it expires permanently.
Registered Design Rights
Designs are governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, the Registered Designs Regulations 2001 and the Intellectual Property Act 2014. Chic Consultants can help you navigate these laws.
Registered design rights are extensive. You can manufacture, export, and use any product that incorporates your design. You have the exclusive rights to do so. The design is protected across all sectors and is not limited to the product to which it was originally applied.
If someone violates your exclusive rights, you can file for infringement. A court can give you compensation for your lost earnings and an injunction against the person who stole your content.
You can grant a licence to someone else so they can manufacture your design. You, your lawyer, and them must draft a contract that outlines the extent of their rights.
As long as you have a registration, you can sell your IP design to anyone else. As with granting a licence, you must sign a contract. Once you sign it over, you cannot obtain it back without making another deal.
Unregistered Design Rights
Unregistered designs receive some protections. The owner of an unregistered design can prevent others from making copies of it. They can also stop others from selling or possessing copies.
Unregistered rights start as soon as a record of the design is made. The record can be a visual of the design or a written description of it. It does not have to be made public.
The protections last for 15 years after the record is made. If the design is marketed, protections last for ten years. If the design is made public, its appearance is protected for three years.
The owner can sue for infringement. But they must prove that the design is their intellectual property. They must also show when the design was made. Signed and dated copies of drawings may provide enough evidence.
Hiring an intellectual property lawyer is usually necessary to win a case for an unregistered design. Google “lawyer to protect my design” to find firms that you can compare to each other.
During the last five years, any individual can receive a licence to manufacture the design. The owner cannot sue them for infringement. They can go to the Intellectual Property Office if they encounter a dispute.
Secure Your Rights With Legal Help
A design is the appearance of a product. It is largely independent of the product’s function.
To receive registration, a design must be new and individualized. Registering your design involves filling out an online application.
Registered design rights are extensive. You will have the exclusive rights to reproduce products with your design. You can give a licence to others to do so.
You do have rights without registration. But it is harder to argue for infringement in court so a design registration is usually a good idea.
Turn to intellectual property lawyers for guidance. Chic Consultants is a leading firm for entrepreneurs. Contact us today.