Unregistered design rights in the UK and EU
Unregistered design rights in the UK and EU

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

  • Unregistered design rights in the UK and EU
  • Relevant legislation
  • UK unregistered design rights
  • Unregistered Community design right
  • Practical points regarding unregistered design rights

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this Practice Note. For further guidance, see Practice Note: Brexit—IP rights.

Unregistered Community designs (UCDs) (effective throughout the EU), and UK unregistered design rights both arise automatically in respect of qualifying designs without the need for registration or any other specific action on the part of the owner. However, as with all unregistered rights, care should be taken to preserve evidence that the right exists and of when it came into being.

UK unregistered design rights and UCDs often coexist and sit alongside registered IP rights, adding an additional layer of protection. However, the scope of protection is very different.

UK unregistered design rights (often referred to simply as ‘design right’) protect the shape and/or configuration of the whole or part of an article. They replaced copyright in protecting functional designs and are arguably of limited use in respect of products where aesthetic considerations are key. Ornamentation/surface decoration is specifically excluded from the scope of their protection.

UCDs, like UK and Community registered design rights, can protect not only three-dimensional designs, but also two-dimensional designs, such as surface ornamentation and