Introduction to designs
Introduction to designs

The following IP guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Introduction to designs
  • What is a design?
  • Registered design rights—registering a design
  • Unregistered Community designs (and comparable rights)
  • UK unregistered design rights
  • Practical considerations

This Practice Note provides an introduction to design law and covers the various design rights (both registered and unregistered) that can be relied on by right holders in the UK.

For more information about the registration of designs and transactions involving designs, see: Design transactions and management—overview.

For more information about design disputes, see: Design disputes—overview.

As of 31 December 2020 (‘exit day’ or ‘IP completion day’), the UK is no longer an EU Member State. In the circumstances, from 1 January 2021, the UK is no longer part of the Community designs regime and is no longer subject to the Designs Regulation (Regulation (EC) 6/2002). The implications of these changes are explained below.

What is a design?

Design rights protect the shape, configuration or appearance of the whole or part of a product or article (rather than its functional aspects). Design law is intended to stop other people making products which are made to the design of or create the same overall impression as the original design. The number of designs registered in the UK and EU is increasing each year and consequently there is more design litigation, though cases are far fewer in number than those for patents, trade marks and copyright. Design law is sometimes considered complicated and is a highly specialist area—mainly because there are several different types of