They are shapes, inspiration ... art. By colours, contours, surface structure, decoration and form they appeal to a broad sector of the public. In design circles the presentation is referred to as the "look-and-feel".

The design of a product can work hand in hand with the trade mark and image of your company. They reinforce each other and can be an important asset in competition. Design protection applies in a wide variety of areas. From packaging, fabric and wallpaper samples to vehicle bodies and fittings and furnishings ...

The validity of a registered design lasts for a maximum of 25 years from the filing date. The duration can be extended after five years for a further five at a time. An unregistered design established merely through usage in the EU has a validity of three years.

The design is – analogously to semiconductors and utility models – registered without being examined for novelty and originality. Research into already existing forms ("Formenschatz") is therefore a must and the approach we follow when a new design is to come onto the market or is to be involved in legal proceedings within the framework of obtaining a temporary injunction.

For German and European designs there is a twelve-months grace period. The designer has up to a year to apply for protection after the first publication without this disclosure being an obstacle to the protection right. In this period the designer can test whether his design looks likely to be successful.

A registered design grants its proprietor the exclusive right to market it and to prohibit others from using it commercially in any form. The unregistered design grants its designer only the right to prevent the use of the product with the design when the use constitutes the result of an imitation of the protected design and the "infringer" cannot prove any creation of his own, Art. 19 (2) EC Regulation 6/2002 on community designs.

Design protection abroad can be achieved by registering foreign national designs. Simultaneous registration of a design for different states can be achieved by an international filing of the application with the WIPO (under the Hague Agreement). When the area of the European Union is the desired territory, the quickest way to obtain protection in the 28 states of the European Union is to file an RCD application (with OHIM).

Last updated 8 January 2014