Protecting your Designs
Guide to using a registered design right to protect your idea.
Registering a design is a lot cheaper, quicker and easier than a getting a granted patent. However it only protects the appearance of a product. If your idea isn't about how something works or doing something new but is instead a new shape, pattern or appearance of a product then a registered design could well be the best form of protection for you.
A lot of people choose to do a patent application first and then register the design of the product as well. This give two forms of protection for their idea. One form of protection, the patent, is to protect what the idea does, and the second form, registering the design, is to protect how the idea looks. This also means that if the patent application is unsuccessful for any reason they still have some protection in place with the registered design.
Like patenting the UK IPO controls the granting of registered design rights in the UK. You can apply directly, they have produced some very good guidelines to submitting a design for registration. The guidelines are available at this link: UK IPO: Registered Designs PDF
European Registered Designs - Community Registered Designs
By registering your design with the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) you can achieve Europe wide protection for your design for €330. (Correct at time fo writing - July '11).
Registered Designs in the UK or Europe last for an initial five year period and then can be renewed for four further 5 year periods making the total amount of protection a maximum of 25 years.
Design right gives you protection for the shape of an original design automatically. Design right allows you to stop anyone from copying the shape of the product, but does not protect any of the 2-dimensional aspects, for example a T shirt design. 2-dimensional designs can be protected using copyright or registered designs. Design right lasts either 10 years after the first marketing of the design or 15 years after creation of the design, whichever is earliest. However you can only stop someone copying the design for the first 5 years and your design right will only give you protection in the United Kingdom (UK). Registering the design in the EU is therefore often more appropriate as it gives you wider protection and is very cost effective.
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