Protecting your look.
Your design documents, such as CAD drawings or fashion sketches, have some automatic protection by copyright. In the United Kingdom we also have unregistered design right. The UK intellectual property office has some basic information available.
If the appearance of your product is important, then registered design is a very valuable asset, particularly if you are in one of those industries where competition is fierce. Designs can be registered at the European Union level or for the UK alone. With Brexit looming, UK design registration is becoming more important for local businesses. Design protection doesn’t cost a lot and can last for up to 25 years. The official fees are low. However, economising on choosing how to represent your design is always a mistake. Take professional advice or risk the fate of the Trunki designer who found himself with a design registration that was not infringed by what he thought was a flagrant copy.
How we can help you with design
Luckily design law, unlike patent law in the UK, provides a grace period so if your new product is selling like hot cakes because of its good looks there is still time within 12 months of it first going public to apply for registration. The key to successful registration is good drawings. It is surprisingly difficult to capture the essence of a look in a 2D image so it’s worth thinking about what are the keys to its success as a design. Apple have been the master of establishing that a lack of embellishment is itself a design feature. In other cases the fundamental design shines through whatever pattern or colour is applied to it – think sofas.
With the help of our draughtsmen we will help choose the best approach and get your design registered.
Having a registration of your design is helpful, if you believe someone has copied your design work. Even without copyright and design right may help against the most determined copyists. Nevertheless, it is always important to keep your expectations in check. Design thrives on inspiration, fashion and trend. Sometimes a designer’s view can be very blinkered. Not everything similar is really flagrant copying. We can help you whichever side you find yourself on. Its always wise to have some legal advice before taking to the court of social media.
Design registration provides protection for appearance and an infringing article must make the same overall impression on the informed user. If you are relying on copyright or design right then copying must be proved and there must be enough circumstantial evidence for it to be inferred.
Where can I get protection
The UK is about to become a member of the Hague International Design System and while we are still in the EU, UK designers can access it already. This system is described and allows a design application to be made in one place for a range of countries. US Design patents are a particularly useful asset for an entrepreneur and have the advantage that they don’t come with renewal fees.
At the moment Filemot recommend UK designers who are thinking of international protection to consider filing before publishing as not everyone offers the grace period, though the US and European Union system (known as Community registered Designs) do.
What can’t be registered?
The way your product works, its exact measurements, its technical advantages and anything that makes you resort to words to describe it, is outside the scope of design protection. This is essentially where Trunki found themselves confounded. The idea of a child friendly sit-upon case with wheels and horns was a design idea, not a fixed look. The idea was adopted but it was given a different look, a new design treatment rather than some minor changes. Judges have an unenviable task. Try to avoid their courts if you can.