Designs & Copyright

What are registered / unregistered design rights?

Registered and unregistered design rights protect the appearance (rather than function) of products and, in some territories, parts of products.

Unregistered rights (where available) arise automatically when a design is created or a product made to the design is first sold.

In the UK, unregistered design protection protects certain designs. The protection runs for 10 years after a product made to the design is first sold, or 15 years after the design was first recorded – whichever expires last. Unregistered design protection throughout the European Union runs for the more limited period of 3 years from when the design is first made available to the public. The laws of some other countries provide for unregistered design protection, but it is relatively rare.

If you want to rely on an unregistered design right, you need to be able to prove when the design was created and/or when it was first sold or otherwise made available to the public.

Registering a design enables additional and better protection to be obtained and in some countries is the only way to protect the design. Registration affords a longer term of protection, up to 25 years in the UK and EU and typically at least 10 years in other countries. Also, whereas unregistered design rights can only be infringed where your design has been copied (a copy need not be exact), registered designs are infringed by any design which is too close to the protected design, no matter how that infringing design was developed.

Registered designs are relatively quick and cost effective to obtain and are available both instead of, and in addition to, patent protection for products.

Wilson Gunn can advise on all aspects of intellectual property protection. Please get in touch to speak to a member of our team about design protection.