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What is a design Protection?

DESIGNS are concerned with the appearance of a product - features of e.g. shape, configuration, texture or materials not dictated by functional considerations.

Did you know that?

The design right resulting from registration confers on the proprietor (for a limited time) the exclusive right to use the design and to authorise others to use it. It also includes the right to make, offer, put on the market, import, export, or use a product in which the design is incorporated or to which it is applied, or to stock such a product for those purposes.

What is a design?

A design means the appearance of part or of the whole product. It may consist of two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or colour or of three-dimensional features, such as shape, texture or surface of an article.

What can be registered?

Essentially any features, which relate purely to the appearance of the article and is not dictated by the way the article is required to function, fit into or match other components of a larger article. The maximum duration of design protection varies from country to country from 5 up to 25 years.

What are the requirements for registering a design?

  • The design must be new. Details of it must not have been publicly disclosed prior to filing the application unless a grace period is permitted.
  • The design must have individual character i.e. an informed observer would readily form the overall impression that it can be distinguished from earlier designs.

Unregistered designs

Some countries in their national legislation and the EU Directive provide a short-term form of copyright protection for industrial designs. Registration is not required and protection is deemed to start when the product is placed on the market. In comparison to registered design, copying of spare parts of unregistered design for e.g. repair purposes does not infringe such rights. So good practice suggests registering your design in order to benefit from a stronger protection.

How to obtain design Protection?


How to register a design nationally

Applying for a national design registration is generally a straightforward process. An application will have to meet certain minimum requirements. The applicant must be the proprietor i.e. the owner of the design. The proprietor can be the author of the design or the employer of the person who created the design if this was done in the course of the employment (subject to any contract or agreement to the contrary). Any number of representations of the design may be submitted but must be suitable for reproduction. One application may include more than one design, provided that they are intended to be incorporated in objects included in the same class of the international design classification. You should contact your national office which handles applications for design registrations in order to obtain an application form and details of the precise requirements, procedures and fees applicable in your country.

Claiming priority

It is possible to claim priority of an application made in the preceding six months in one of the States party to the Paris Convention.

In the European Union: Registered Community Design

A registered Community design (or RCD) is a single EU wide design registration.  Filed in just one language, it grants a right to protection in all 27 member states of the European Union. A single application can be made online at a cost of €350 at the Office of Harmonization of the Internal Market (OHIM). Registration lasts for five years and can be renewed up to a maximum of 25 years.

Outside the European Community : WIPO

If your market is outside the European community, you should be aware of the existence of an international design application procedure, created by the Treaty of The Hague. By filing a single international application to WIPO in Geneva you may be able to obtain the protection in several signatory States to the Treaty of The Hague. Usually a registered design is published on registration. However, it may be to your advantage to seek to defer publication of your design. For example applications for Community Design registration can be delayed for up to 30 months and your creation remains confidential until you are ready to disclose it. Your national office will be able to provide detailed information.


Guide on Designs

Community Design