Design Rights - what you need to know

Do you want to protect the value of creative assets designed for your business?

Do you need to prevent other people from using your designs without your permission?

Design Rights protect the texture, contours, shape, materials and decoration of a design. They can apply to a wide range of products including packaging, graphics, logos and the ‘look and feel’ of products.

They can also be ‘Registered Designs’ (which are less valuable but still have some protection despite not being registered). Design Rights give you the right to prevent copying of your designs and to earn money from their licensed use.

How LawBite can help

Our Intellectual Property lawyers and solicitors can help you affordably and quickly to:

  • Identify which Designs you own or could own
  • Work out whether these designs can be ‘Registered’
  • Assist you to get them registered
  • Help you commercialise those Design Rights
  • Make sure that you are not infringing other peoples’ designs

Why Design Rights are important for your business

Some elements of the design process can be protected by the law of copyright, however, copyright alone doesn't always offer enough protection for designs. Design rights are an underused element of intellectual property rights because they are not very well known or understood.

Our expert design rights lawyers and solicitors are here to help you all the way through the registration process 
In the UK, design rights are protected by two legal rights: registered design rights and unregistered design rights.

The Registered Design Rights Act, 1949 (RDA) provides for the whole or part of a design, including its contours, texture, shape, materials, colours or how it's ornamented. You can protect a broad range of products, including packaging, graphic symbols and individual elements that form part of a complex product (one composed of at least two replaceable component parts).

A separate regime exists under English law to protect unregistered original designs.  These rights arise under the CDPA that creates copyrights.

How can you register your Design Rights in the UK?

A registered design provides you with an exclusive right to use the design 'and any design which does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression'.

The initial period of protection is five years from the date of registration of the design.

The registration can be renewed after that for further periods of five years each, taking the total length of protection under a registered design to 25 years. Renewal fees are £130, £210, £310 and £450 for each successive five-year period of renewal.

An application for registration of a design is made to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) where you set out what the design is and provide a representation of it. It's your responsibility to verify that these criteria are fulfilled and that you're not wasting your time in making an application for registration. A fee of £60 is payable for a single design to be published immediately. The cost of a deferred design is £40. Following registration, third parties can apply to cancel the registration on various grounds, such as lack of novelty and distinctive character or that you aren't the rightful owner.

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Frequently asked questions

LawBite is the modern way for SMEs to get the high quality legal advice they need, but faster and cheaper.

As we look to revolutionise the traditional legal process, this may raise a number of questions on how we operate to provide your business with legal advice for your business that is; easier to access, clearer to understand and more affordable.

We have brought together the most frequently asked questions from our customers.

An unregistered design right arises automatically for three-dimensional designs in the UK and for both two and three-dimensional designs in the EU. An unregistered design lasts for a shorter amount of time and it is harder to prove the right in cases of infringement.

A patent protects the usefulness of an invention whereas a design right protects how an object looks.

A design rights infringement is when another design that is similar or identical to your design does not produce a different overall impression on an informed consumer.

The best way to protect your design in to apply for a registered design in the UK or EU.

A design right protects “the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation”.

In the UK, only three-dimensional designs are protected as an unregistered design right for 10 years after it was first sold or 15 years after it was created. A registered design can last for 25 years. In the EU, an unregistered community design right lasts for three years from the date it was first made available to the public. A registered community design can last for up to 25 years.

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