4 Reasons 4 Design Rights

Design rights are one of several intellectual property rights. They are exclusive rights that protect the appearance of a product, or a part of it, provided it is new and has individual character that sets it apart from any pre-existing designs that could be known about (however old). Businesses register designs to strengthen their competitive advantage, prevent work from being copied and build assets for value creation.

This means that the absence of design protection can be detrimental on those dimensions.

4iP Council developed the original version of this interactive guide in cooperation with eminent academics and experts to share best practice and deepen understanding of the value of design registration. Original source: 4 Reasons 4 Design Rights | 4iP Council



Design rights are simple and inexpensive, offering access to easy procedures to defend one's rights (including custom actions)

“If you only need protection in one EU country, you can register your design with the national IP office.  Learn more about applying for a design registration in Ireland here. If you do business in more than one EU country, you can obtain a Registered Community Design (RCD) with the EUIPO. At EU level, you can also choose not to register your design and use an Unregistered Community Design (UCD) instead. Learn more about RCD and UCD.

If there is a dispute, registration is prima facie evidence of ownership. A Registered Community Design provides you with the presumption of an exclusive right, even without the design being examined whether your design is new or if it possesses individual character. Learn more here.

A Registered Community Design can be registered at EU Customs to stop the import of products that illegally reproduce the design. Visit the IP Enforcement portalto learn more.

A Registered Community Design covers 28 EU countriesthrough a single application, is not expensive and is easy to get because there is no substantive examination.

Visit this EUIPO linkto get a Registered Community Design in 2 days or less for 350€.

These guides will help you start the process of design registration

Take note of international variations and seek specialist IP advice. In the USA for instance, designs are protected as Design Patentsnot industrial designs, and are usually dealt with through US patent attorneys. In the UK, an Unregistered Design Rightcan last for up to 15 years.

Rights help create obstacles for imitators and copycats to capitalise on the work and effort you put into creating your design

You can mention your design claim in advertising. Moreover, your design rights will come up as prior rights in searches by competitors and alert them to these prior rights at a very early stage in their product development, thereby preventing potential conflicts. You are responsible for enforcingyour registered design, so be vigilant!

Stephan Koziol, Managing Director at Koziol(decorative objects) shares his experience with design rights during trade fairs, "in Frankfurt the customs officers impound the copies which infringe our rights directly from the stands." He considers the Registered Community Design decisive because it is economical, quick to obtain and it works in all countries. The video can be found within the rotating banner.

"We were copied in the past by products of much lower quality, but we resolved the issue satisfactorily and quickly, because the designs were registered", declared Luis Chico, Managing Director at Hispanitas(footwear). The video can be found within the rotating banner.

Capture the full value of your investment and effort in developing an attractive product

Read how Vilniaus Duona(food products) uses registered designs on their product sleeves, making these items attractive and distinctive; the upshot has increased brand recognition for the SME.

p>Listen to textile designer and producer, Nicole Phillips, talk about how she protected her designs in this short Case Study from the UK IP Office.

Distinguish your work from competitors by safeguarding valuable product differentiation through design

A design is the appearance of a product, or a part of it, that can result from the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation. Examples here.

Watch the video where Hannu Kähönen, CEO Creadesign(industrial design agency), states that design protection is essential for them because they can prove their originality to their clients. The video can be found within the rotating banner.

In some countries and if registering at EU level you can register your design and still keep it secret

In the case of a Registered Community Design, this is done by asking to have the official publication of your design deferred for up to 30 months. People in the fashion and automotive industries often do this. You can also wait - up to one year - until after a public launch to register your design. See this EUIPO link.



Good design makes your company stand out

Collaborate with business partners to commercialise designs in new markets

Koziol (furniture) distributes their products protected by Registered Community Design to over 50 countries worldwide. Read how they do it.

Hispanitas’ (footwear) export sales account for 47% of total sales, with 30 employees. They have 479 Registered Community Designs and 5 European Trademarks. Read about their experience here.

Earn valuable revenue from licensing your design rights

Read European IP Helpdesk’s case study on how UK company ALLWINTER(Download PDF version here) broke into the snowboard market and became an innovation supplier via licensing, by using a range of IP tools. "The innovative start-up realised very early on that getting an IP firm on board and setting up an effective IP strategy as an integral part of their overall business strategy are critical steps in safeguarding competitiveness and business success."

Combine partners' complementary assets to bring a new product to the market

Durbanis (urban and outdoor furniture) owner and manufacturer of the Loclock design is a relatively young company based in Girona (Spain). It is a highly design-intensive company which regularly collaborates with leading Spanish designers and exports around 80% of its products. The Loclock is a bicycle locking system for public spaces, which has already won several design awards. Read their design registration story.

RoundTail Bike/Tortola International Inc. (bicycles) inventor of the circular frame design quickly sought expert partners in order to develop an idea and enter a competitive and international market. Mr. Tortola based his company's expansion on a strategic branding and commercialisation plan supported by IP assets. Read the case study.



Enhance your reputation for creativity and originality by showing on the public record, how many new designs you are protecting

Mark your products to show that you hold design registrations as your commitment to design integrity

This European IP Helpdesk case study shows how Finnish Sector Design(lighting) made use of design rights when competing with infringers. "As the lights marketed by Secto Design were proving very popular, so did counterfeit imitations. The number of infringements directly correlates to the growth of the company and has been an issue for them since the early 2000s. These fake products have had an effect not only on the company’s revenues, but - even more importantly - on the company’s reputation, as these low-quality copies have been associated with Secto Design by its customers".

Mandy Haberman, Founder and Creative Director of Haberman Products Ltd. (feeding cups) buoyed by the commercial success of her patented cups, and understanding the importance of design, produced a new redesigned range of cups in translucent colors. "You can have the greatest technology in the world but unless it catches the eye of consumers, they won’t pick it up off the shelf" said Mandy. Learn how Haberman Products strategically uses all IP rights. Read more here.

Take note of international differences. A number of jurisdictions (notably the US, UK, Canada, Australia & New Zealand) have rules on marking (and consequences flowing from the absence of marking). In Canada for example, if the right holder does not mark his wares to indicate that they are protected by an industrial design registration, the defendant can escape a monetary condemnation if he establishes that he had no reasonable ground to suspect that the design was registered.



Increase possibilities for return-on-investment

The litter bin design of the City of Helsinki is part of Creadesign's urban experience work. These litter bins are a huge success because of their functional, attractive registered design and are used nationwide. Read more here.

Lower investment risk by leveraging the exclusivity of protected designs

Almost 2/3 of EU companies, business organisations and business associations consider the EU’s design protection system to be working well. Source: Results of EC public consultation on the EU design protection legislation.

Enhance company value to investors

Read European IP Helpdesk’s case study on how UK company ALLWINTER(Download PDF version here) broke into the snowboard market using a range of IP tools. "Not only did a patent need to be filed, but it was essential to protect the look and feel of the PowDaze®, considering its unique design and ability to attach to most snowboards. By filing a design application in the UK first, ALLWINTER® was able to get the priority date needed to raise funds and look at the relevant markets so that they could expand their design protection globally".

The innovative patented and registered design of award winning Haberman Products Ltd. (feeding cups) provided a solution to a problem (spillage). Companies were prepared to pay for a license. When Haberman joined forces with V&A Marketing Ltd., the cup, bolstered by a trusted brand, started to sell in unprecedented numbers, at a rate of about 60,000 per week. Read the case study.

The McLoughlins, founders of MakMarine (industrial engineering) spent five years and £160,000 of their own resources developing the c-fury (small power boat). Having IP protection in place builds investor confidence, and gives MakMarine the security to build their new brand for international markets. In negotiations with Yamaha, MakMarine’s patents, trademarks and industrial designs were taken as a sign that they were serious about their invention. As a result, MakMarine is now an OEM customer of Yamaha and a close partnership is developing. Read the case study.

Attract venture capital

Secure credit for business development

Gain access to public funds and support schemes for innovative SMEs