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Unregistered designs  What designs are capable of being registered?


September 19, 2019

Designs are potentially one of the most valuable intellectual property assets a business owns. Design can be crucial to a product’s mass appeal – just think of the iPod or Dyson vacuum cleaner.

  • Registration of a design gives you the right to prevent others using it, for example through manufacture, or sale.
  • Once a design is registered, it can be renewed every 5 years for up to 25 years.
  • It is not necessary to prove that someone else has copied your design to be able to stop them using a similar design.
  • Designs should not be confused with patents. Patents protect inventions, whereas design registration generally covers the shape and configuration of products, or their appearance.

Unregistered designs

Limited protection for designs is available without registration. There are two types of unregistered design protection in the UK:

  • UK unregistered design protection lasts for up to 15 years from the moment the design is recorded, and applies to designs which are created or commissioned by EU citizens and companies.
  • UK unregistered designs can protect the shape of a product, but not surface decorations or logos. Nor does it protect a design made to pair up with something else, for example a spare engine part.
  • European unregistered design protection lasts for 3 years from the date when the design is first publicised, and applies to any designs.
  • Designs must be new in order to attract protection.
  • An important disadvantage of unregistered, rather than registered designs, is that they only protect your work if they are copied. Whereas a registered design protects you even if someone comes up with the same design independently.

What designs are capable of being registered?

  • For the purpose of registration, the definition of “design” is very broad, and even includes logos.
  • Other designs include packaging, fashion garments, handicraft, a sculpture, products such as chairs, or a pattern (e.g. tartan) or images applied to the surface of products like textiles or wallpaper.
  • Even graphic symbols on a computer screen and typefaces may be registered as designs

There are criteria which designs need to meet, and time limits to be complied with in order to register a design. For more information, and pricing take a look at our Design Registration Fee Calculator.

Where can I register my designs?

As with trademarks, design registration gives you rights in the country or territories in which you register. This means it is necessary to register your design in each country where you will use it.

  • If your trading activities are restricted to the UK, a UK design registration may be sufficient protection for your needs.
  • If your business trades in more than one European country, or you intend to do so in future, then a Registered Community Design is more appropriate. This would provide protection in 28 countries within the EU including the UK.
  • We can also help you to secure registration in many other countries worldwide through registration of international designs.