A design right is an intellectual property right that protects the visual appearance of articles (or parts thereof) that are not purely utilitarian.
This visual appearance is composed of in particular lines, contours, colours, shapes, textures or the materials of the product itself or of its ornamentation and by product is understood any object manufactured according to industrial or traditional methods, including, amongst others, parts destined to be assembled with a complex product, packaging, presentations, graphic symbols and typographical characters. The design may be the product itself (the three-dimensional creation) or the ornamentation of the product (the two-dimensional creation).
Designs may be protected (at least in most European countries) provided:
- they are novel, that is if no design identical or differing only in immaterial details has been made available to the public;
- they have individual character, that is the "informed user" would find the overall impression different from other designs which are available to the public.
Where a design forms part of a more complex product, the novelty and individual character of the design are judged on the part of the design that is visible during normal use.
Designs are not protected insofar as their appearance is wholly determined by their technical function, or by the need to interconnect with other products to perform a technical function (the "must-fit" exception).
Registered and unregistered Community designs are available under the Community Design Regulation, which provides a unitary right covering the 27 EU Member States. Protection for a registered Community design is for up to 25 years, subject to the payment of renewal fees every five years whereas the unregistered Community design lasts for three years after the design is made available to the public.
National systems of registered designs remain in place alongside the system of Community designs but their relevance diminished drastically in view of the success of the Community Designs.
- As Benelux and European Design attorneys we offer services for filing, prosecution and administration of Benelux, CTM-European Union, UK and International Designs.
- We also carry out searches and if needed more detailed analyses in relation to third party trademarks.
- We can help you design the best possible strategy for developing or structuring your Design portfolio.
- We also offer all services in relation to litigation of your Design. We often act as experts in Design court proceedings.