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What IP Do You Own? (3)

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Design rights

Your business may be in design and/or technology. Registering the design will protect its appearance against copying. There are registered designs for clothing, jewellery, sports equipment, mobile phones, vehicles, household goods, toys etc. Registration of the design at the Intellectual Property Office gives an exclusive right to the design in the UK for a period of up to 25 years. The design must not be the same as any design already available to the public and it must have individual character distinguishing it from previous designs. Once you launch the design that constitutes a disclosure that but there is a 12 month period of ‘grace’ so there is some scope for “market testing” before committing to registration of the design – though early registration is the safest course!

An original design which has not been registered will attract some protection as an unregistered design right. The protection lasts for 10 years from the date of first marketing subject to an overall limit of 15 years from its creation. Again the right is one to prevent copying. During the last 5 years’ protection there is a mandatory licensing scheme. Subject to the payment of licence fees / royalties, a competitor can insist on obtaining a licence.

In the European Union protection of unregistered designs lasts for only 3 years from first disclosure.

See also our notes on … Intellectual Property and our Self audit of IP … and watch out for the next post in this series.