Registered Design (UK)
A UK registered design allows the owner to exploit a monopoly on the design. This right protects the 2D (including surface decoration) and 3D features of the appearance of a product which do not relate to its function.
To be registerable the design must be new in its field and have individual character. A designer who discloses a design has a 12-month grace period in which to apply for registration.
The period of protection is 25 years from the date of filing the application, renewable in periods of five years. Registered design rights can be applied for in most countries.
Unregistered Designs (UK)
UK unregistered design right arises when a design that qualifies for protection is recorded in a design document or an article is made to that design. It is an automatic right which protects against copying and requires no formal registration.
This right protects the design of the shape or configuration of the whole or part of an article, though the design must be original (i.e. not commonplace). Features of the design dictated by their need to fit or match another item will not be protected.
The period of protection expires 15 years from the end of the calendar year in which the design was first recorded or an article was first made to the design. The effective period of protection is 10 years.
In practice, the owner of the design has the exclusive right to use the design for five years. In the last five years of the life of the design, a third party can be given licence to the design.
Unregistered Community Design Right
When a design is first made available in the EU (e.g. when it is published, exhibited, sold or disclosed) this right is automatically triggered. Similar to Registered Community Design Right, this right offers protection in all of the Member States of the European Union.
For a successful claim to be brought for infringement of Unregistered Community Design Right, the Claimant must prove that the Defendant has produced a design as a result of copying the original design, and is considered to be the same or sufficiently the same as the original design.
However the period of protection is only three years from the date the design was first made available.