A registered design can quickly give useful protection for the appearance of a new product at a relatively low cost and so forms a useful part of an IP strategy. Where a product has a distinctive shape or surface pattern and is being launched into a mature market or where the competition is likely to react quickly and launch its own product, registered design protection can be particularly useful.
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Where to obtain protection
Registered design protection covering the UK can be obtained either by applying for a national right or for a European Community Registered Design. The initial costs for the national registered design are less than that for the EC protection but the total costs over the entire period of protection favour Community protection.
Scope of protection
The scope of protection for a registered design is limited to how the product looks, not how it works and so it is less effective a monopoly than a patent. On the other hand, the costs are less and the term of protection is longer: twenty five years for a registered design compared to twenty years for a patent.
There is a grace period which in certain circumstances allows applications for registered design protection to be deferred for twelve months from when the design was first released to the public. This allows some flexibility when planning a registered design filing strategy. We would recommend that you speak to us before deciding to rely on this grace period so that you understand the risks involved.
As well as registered design protection, in some circumstances automatic design protection is available but only for a limited time and for particular features of a product. This provides a safety net to a certain extent but we would recommend that you apply for the registered rights.
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