What is a design right

A design right is a form of intellectual property (IP) right that is issued to the owner of property that is unique, available and distinctive in design. Owners have the right to register the design in order to obtain a set of exclusive rights of ownership. Once the property is registered, the owner has the right to deny or permit third parties from using the design. The owner also has the right to seek remedies where their design rights are infringed. When seeking to register your design right it is advised that you consult with a professional consultancy firm to ensure the process is performed in a professional and timely manner.

Design rights explained

A design right provides the owner with automatic protection on the shape (internal or external) and configuration of the design.

In order to qualify for a design right, it must be fixed to a design document – usually in the form of a drawing. Additionally, the design must have the following features; a unique and available shape, material, texture or ornamentation.

Once the design is on paper, it must then pass tests of being unique, distinctive, and available to register. If the design is already in use, the owner cannot seek a design right over it.

Obtaining a design right requires the application of registration by the owner, or a professional consultancy firm acting on behalf of the owner. The application must be made to the appropriate intellectual property office (IPO) in their country of domicile, and any other country in which the owner wishes to obtain rights in.

Once the owner is issued a set of exclusive rights, the owner then acquires legal protection and can seek appropriate remedies where their design rights are infringed. Owning a design right effectively prevents third parties and competitors from using the design or copying.

Design rights are only applicable in the UK. The validity period of the right lasts for 10 years once the design has been commercially marketed, or 15 years from the date of creation.

Unregistered designs although can be used commercially, do not have the same level of protection against other parties using the design.