As of 13 June 2018, it is possible to designate the UK when registering a design under the Hague Agreement.

Unlike patents which protect the technical functioning (in other words, how it works) of an invention, design rights protect the unique appearance of your products.  This includes the appearance, physical shape, configuration or decoration of your products.

Unregistered design rights arise automatically when the design is created.  However, this is a weaker form of protection as it only protects against direct copying of your design by a third party and you need to be able to prove that this copying took place.

Registering your design provides enhanced protection.  Registered Design rights can be used to prevent anyone else from using the same or a similar design.  There is no requirement to show that copying took place.  The design must be new and have individual character for the design rights to be valid.

The examination process for registered designs is very straightforward compared to that which applies to patent protection, so a Registered Design provides a quick and inexpensive route to secure granted rights which can be used against third parties.  The protection lasts up to 25 years, subject to the payment of a renewal fee every five years.

The design can be registered in individual national countries.  It is also possible to apply for a Registered Community Design, which is a single design right which provides protection in all EU states.

There is also an international registration system called the Hague Agreement which provides a mechanism for a design to be protected in the territories of up to 82 countries. Applications are filed at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), by payment of a single set of application fees. The central examination of formalities by WIPO streamlines the design process.  However, substantive examination will still take place at a national level.  After registration, the Hague System continues to reduce administrative effort and cost as only one set of renewal fees is paid centrally.

UK businesses have had to access the Hague system since 2008 through the EU’s membership of it. But joining in a national capacity gives additional flexibility to applicants, and will also mean that the Hague system can still cover the UK after Brexit.

To find out how we can help you with your registered design protection strategy, you can contact us!