Design protection guarantees you the exclusive right to use a design, which includes making, offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting or using the product in which your design is incorporated or to which it is applied. If you give your authorisation, third parties can use your design in their products.
What design protection covers
You can request design protection for the appearance of the whole or a part of your product. Your design results from the features of the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of your product.
How you protect design
If you create a new design which meets the requirements of novelty and individual character, then you may need to register it.
If you only need to protect your design in one EU country, you should register the design at the relevant national IP office.
When you do business in more than one EU country, you can protect your design with a Registered Community Design (RCD). You will pay EUR 350 for 5 years protection and you have to register your design with the European Union Intellectual Property Rights Office (EUIPO).
If you only need protection for your design at EU level for a short period of time, such as 3 years, you can choose not to register your design and use an Unregistered Community Design (UCD) instead. You don’t need to register or pay any fees. A UCD protects your design from the moment of public disclosure. After it expires you cannot renew it.
You can find out more about the registration that suits you at the design page of the European Union Intellectual Property Right Office (EUIPO).
In addition to the design protection, designs are also eligible for protection under copyright law if they fulfil the protection requirements for both: originality for copyright and novelty and individual character for design rights.
If you create an original design, your copyright protection starts immediately from the moment of the work’s creation, without the need for any registration of your design.
Kristel is a dressmaker based in Estonia, who also sells clothes to Latvia and Lithuania, created a new cocktail dress. She wants to protect her creation and avoid that her business competitors copy her dress, so she decides to register her design. Although Kristel knows that her new dress can be protected for free (unregistered community design), she knows the limitations to this type of protection – the protection only covers deliberate copying of the dress, but not the independent development of a similar design. Since she spent a lot of time to create the dress and she thinks that it is going to be a successful product (also in Latvia and Lithuania) Kristel prefers to protect her creation with a registered community design, which costs EUR 350 and lasts five years, with possible renewals every five years for up to 25 years.
For international protection outside the EU, you should register your design at the World International Property Organisation (WIPO). It protects your rights in 67 countries.