Designs are potentially one of the most valuable intellectual property (IP) 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 from 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 designs protection in the UK:

  • UK unregistered design protection lasts for up to 15 years from the moment the design is recorded. This 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 was 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.

Design Registration Factors

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 that, 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.

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