The Importance of Design Rights

At the recent Intellectual Property Law Conference, our own David Brophy discussed the importance of design rights within the wider landscape of intellectual property legislation. Irish spoke to David about his experience in this area and how design rights relate to passing-off and other protections. The below interview was posted by Irish on March 24, 2016.

How do design rights relate to other forms of IP protection?

“Design rights probably have more overlap with the other kinds of IP protection than any other. Many trade marks can be protected with registered design rights, as can many 2D and 3D copyright works.

“Patentable inventions will frequently be incorporated in finished products whose appearance can be protected by registered design rights. Design rights are also available to protect get-ups, traditionally covered by passing-off actions.”

What extra protections do design rights give a company’s intellectual property?

“Design rights give protection against imitation of the appearance of the product, either in its entirety or in part. Under Irish and UK law, copyright is not infringed by the copying of a product’s shape and patent protection does not extend to the aesthetic appearance of a product.

“For products where appearance gives value to the product, design rights are crucial to prevent misappropriation of the design of the product. These rights are increasingly used to protect elements of digital products, such as graphical user interfaces and screen icons.

“When used to protect a logo or other graphical symbol, the protection extends to goods and services of all types, unlike trade mark registrations which are limited to specified goods and services.”

What sort of criteria need to be met for a company to avail of the protections given by design rights?

“The design must be novel and must make a different visual impression than existing products, when judged by an informed user. It is possible to obtain protection for products which have already been placed on the market as EU law gives a grace period of 12 months to apply for a registration.

“Other than that, the registration process is painless. Companies should however take advice on what aspects of a product’s design should be shown in the registration to maximise their rights.”

To learn more about the importance of design rights for your business, please contact David Brophy, European Patent and Design Attorney.