Design Rights

Creating the right design with an attractive “look” is very important in today’s economy. A great looking design can add real value to a product. Registered design rights were created so that businesses could protect the “eye appeal” and distinctiveness of products. The design of a product can be protected as an unregistered design or after registration at the patent office as a registered design.

In order to protect how a product looks as opposed to how it works it is important to register the design. A registered design will protect the lines, contours, shape, and texture of a product or its ornamentation. Registered designs are useful in businesses that manufacture products with visual impact. If your product looks good, a registered design will help protect you if your product design is copied in a look-alike product. It is for these reasons that certain toys or goods such as sun glasses and picture frames use the registration system to maintain uniqueness in their market.

In order to be validly registered, the design must be new and have individual character such that it would not remind an informed person of an existing design. In other words it needs to be new and different.

A registered design has protection throughout the UK for 5 years and it can then be renewed every five years for up to 25 years. In order to protect the design in other countries there are two options. Firstly, it is possible to apply for a Registered Community Design with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). Once registered the design then has protection in all countries of the EU. Alternatively, you can apply for registration of the design in the individual countries in which you want protection.

Even if you have not registered a design, the design of your product may still be protected as an unregistered design right. However, these rights are short lived and can be difficult to enforce.

In the UK, an unregistered design right will protect aspects of the shape or configuration of a 3-dimensional product (whether internal or external). The protection lasts for either 10 or 15 years, depending on when the product is first made available for sale or hire.

The advantage of an unregistered design right over a registered design right is that it is free and is created automatically when you create an original design. However, the 2-dimensional aspects (for example patterns) of the design are not protected and these would need to be registered.

There is also a Community unregistered design right which, like UK and Community registered design rights, protects new designs which have individual character. Its protection lasts for 3 years from disclosure of a product incorporating the design to the public in the EU.

We offer help and advice for the protection, management, enforcement and commercialisation of your registered and unregistered design rights.

Protection of Your Design

We help with all aspects of the protection of your design rights, including:

  • Creating the right design right strategy for you – from advising as to whether your designs should be a registered and in what countries such registration needs to be made, i.e. UK, European or International registration.
  • Making the requisite design right applications and dealing with any oppositions or issues which may arise during the application process.
  • Considering whether your design could and should be registered as a trade mark and undertaking the required trade mark application.

Management of your Design Right Portfolio

We will manage your design right portfolio dealing with renewal of registrations and policing your design right registrations. We can also help with advise in relation to third-party applications or registrations if they potentially infringe your design rights.

Enforcement and Defence of Your Design Right

Sometimes it is necessary to protect your position and your design rights. We provide practical, commercial advise in relation to design right disputes, including taking Court action if required. These kind of unregistered and registered designs actions are called infringement proceedings.

In the unfortunate event that you are threatened with infringement proceedings, we can act on your behalf in defending any court action taken for design right infringement. We have an outstanding reputation for finding commercial solutions through alternative dispute resolution, mediation and negotiating damages and costs on your behalf.


We help you find the right kind of the commercialisation or monetization of your design rights. This could be licensing and a range of other commercial agreements which include the rights to use your designs as part of a joint agreement, collaboration, distribution agreement or manufacturing agreements.

One of the most common questions is about royalty rates and calculating fees due on royalties. We will give you up to date commercial advice to ensure that the exploitation of your design rights yield the highest possible returns for you whilst ensuring that your designs remain fully protected.

To enquire about this topic, or any other area of intellectual property, get in touch today.