A registered design protects the visual appearance of a product, part of a product, or its ornamentation. This can also apply to an industrial or handicraft item. This IP right gives protection for a product visual appearance including:

► lines ► contours ► colours ► shape ► texture ► material

Registered design offers protection throughout the UK, EU and internationally and gives more comprehensive cover than an unregistered design. The protection lasts initially for five years and you can renew it every five years for up to 25 years. You have to apply for this IP right from our Design Registry where you will pay a fee – it is not an automatic right. You are allowed up to one year from the date your design was first made public before you have to register it.

To qualify for these rights, your design must be:

► new – which means that it must not be the same as any design which has already been made available to the public. It should pass the ‘deja vu’ test; and Design means physical appearance; this right is not concerned with the function or operation of the product.

► individual in character – which means that the overall impression the design gives the informed user must be different from any previous designs. In assessing individual character, it is important to consider the degree of freedom the designer had in crafting the appearance of the design.

You can’t register your design if it’s more than 12 months since the design was first publicly disclosed (there is a risk that your design could be invalidated otherwise);

As with other intellectual property rights, owning a registered design means you can sell, or licence someone else to use it.

Beyond the UK you can protect it in more than one country using a single application.

You can apply for a registered community design with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). This will offer like protection in all EU member states, including the UK, and can be renewed every five years up to 25 years.

Infringement of Registered Design is a criminal offence not just a civil offence. This allows police and public criminal prosecutors to pursue the case on behalf of claimants. The test of the ordinary observer enables registered designs with significant similarities to have a broader scope of enforcement.

Infringement of a registered design can be identified through ‘the eyes of an ordinary observer’ test. This means that the appearance of an accused design is seen to be an infringement if the design is significantly similar.

Prosecutions have resulted in the offenders being fined, ordered to pay the prosecution costs and subject to the draconian confiscation regime, as well as having their infringing stock forfeited and destroyed.