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Designs are concerned with the appearance of a product

Design is often recognised as being important for products which are deliberately created to look good. But the design of many other products is often also protectable – for example the shape of a perfume bottle or a cardboard carrier for drinks bottles. Design can be protected as a Registered Design or by Design Right. If you need some advice or want to know more, contact us here.

Registered Designs

Registered Designs protect the shape, appearance, surface decoration or ornamentation of a product.

A Registered Design can be obtained by filing an application at the relevant patent office. The application should include copies of your design clearly showing its unique features. Registered Designs can give protection for the whole or part of your design, for the shape of a product, a two-dimensional surface pattern or graphic design or even a combination. So the design could be formed from a combination of shape, colours, texture and/or ornamentation. Registration prevents others from using your design and allows you to license or sell the design registration. Registration can give up to 25 years of protection (subject to renewal fees paid every 5 years). It’s also possible to file a registered design application which covers all of the countries in the EU, which is a “Community” design registration. In the UK and Europe, you can test the market by selling your design for a year before applying for registration – but your rights extend only from the date of filing your application.

Want to compare UK Registered Designs to Unregistered Design Right? Find it here: UK Registered Design & UDR

Top Tip: If appearance is an important feature of your product, get early advice. Once your design is publicly available, the option for registered protection outside of Europe may be lost.

If you need some help, contact us for advice.

Unregistered Design Right

Unregistered Design Right is a right which arises automatically, without the need for registration, and protects the shape or appearance of a design.

The rights are therefore more limited, and are  simply to prevent other people from copying your original design. Designs which can be protected by Design Right must relate to the 3D shape or configuration of an article. To be protected, the design must be original and “not commonplace”. Features enabling the article to be able interact functionally (such as the 3 pins of a plug which need to fit into the socket) are excluded, as are features which allow aesthetic matching to another article.

The term of protection is also more limited – being either 10 years from first marketing of the design or 15 years after its recordal, whichever expires earlier. For the last 5 years of this term if anyone asks for a licence, the licence has to be given, though you can negotiate the terms of that licence with this.

A shorter European Community Unregistered Design Right also exists, but only gives a term of 3 years from the date when the design was made known to the public in the EEA.

Want to compare UK Unregistered Design Right with Registered Designs? Check out our guide: UK Registered Design & UDR

Top Tip: Make sure that you record your design properly – this is crucial to show that your Design Right is in force.


Contact us for details of costs and for advice on designs.