Design law


Design law was introduced to protect the appearance of industrial and mass-produced consumer items. The law protects the appearance and shape of designs which, whilst not artistic works, are given legal protection because of the effort and skill that has gone into their creation.

Unregistered Design Rights (UDR)

There are two types of design law systems in the UK – registered and unregistered.

Like copyright, UDR protection is automatic provided the following criteria apply:

  • The design is recorded in a document or the design has actually been made
  • The design is original, which means (i) it must not be a copy, and (ii) it must not be ‘commonplace in the design field in question’
  • The design is not an excluded one under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (the exclusions include any part of a design that is shaped in a particular way to perform a technical function)

UDR can last between 10 and 15 years and can be used to prevent copying of your design.  

The difficulty with relying solely on UDR is that if your design rights have been infringed, you will also need to prove that the infringer has copied your article. This is not always straightforward, which is why Registered Design Rights are sometimes used as an alternative.

Registered Design Rights (RDR)

Provided your design is both new and has individual character, you may be able to register it at the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO).  

Obtaining a registered design will provide you with a monopoly in the use of the design for a period of up to 25 years. This means that you can prevent others from using identical or even similar designs, which do not create an overall different impression, to yours.

Disputes involving either UDR or RDR are often complex due to the overlap in different rights and, like all litigation, can quickly become very expensive. Because of this, we recommend that you seek expert legal advice from a design law solicitor at the earliest opportunity.

Are you in dispute over a design right? Are you looking to register your design right? Contact Law can put you in touch with an expert intellectual property solicitor, specialising in design law. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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