07 December 2022

Design applications hit record high of 67,000 as Brexit prompts rush to protect design rights

Data and commentary provided by Mathys & Squire has featured in articles by World IP Review and The Patent Lawyer, providing an update on the rapid growth in design applications.

An extended version of the press release is available below.

The number of applications made to the Intellectual Property Office to protect product design rights jumped to a record high 67,034 in the past year* up from 65,248 the previous year, says leading intellectual property law firm, Mathys & Squire.

In the past year, an average of 5,586 design applications were filed each month. In the year leading up to Brexit**, the average number of monthly applications was 2,480.

Brexit has prompted a rush for businesses to file new applications in both the UK and the EU to protect product designs. Since the end of the Brexit ‘transition period’ on January 1st 2021, the UK no longer falls under the scope of EU registered designs, which offer protection across all member countries of the EU. As a result, businesses now have to register a product design in both the UK and in the EU to obtain the protection that they would have once obtained via a single EU registered design application.

Design rights protect the appearance of a product such as its lines, contours, shape, colour, texture or the ornamentation of the product. Design rights can extend to include digital media products, such as computer game characters or graphic designs.

Mathys & Squire says design is a crucial aspect of product differentiation and it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to protect this often hotly-contested area of IP. Failure to take adequate protection could make it more difficult for them to scale up. Investors may decide that without protections for design, a business is not a safe investment prospect and withdraw financing.

Max Thoma, Managing Associate at Mathys & Squire says: “Design applications have seen a sharp spike in the last year and these figures are likely to remain high, as businesses will continue to have to register designs in both the UK and Europe.”

“Not having adequate protections in place for designs could have significant ramifications for businesses. Investors are increasingly keen to see that design rights and other IP is properly protected before they invest. That means failure to protect rights could see businesses miss out on crucial opportunities to grow.”

In addition to securing vital investment, registering designs is vital to ensure your IP is legally enforceable and competitors cannot enter the market with similar products.

Companies that have taken legal action over design rights include:

  • The manufacturer of children’s luggage manufacturer, Trunki, and a discount competitor, Kiddee Case. The Supreme Court ruled that Kiddee Case did not infringe registered design rights, prompting a backlash from designers and entrepreneurs who argued that the ruling left the IP of British businesses vulnerable
  • Apple accused Samsung of copying the shape of its iPhone series in the latter’s Galaxy range, which Apple claimed was an infringement of its registered designs. The UK High Court ruled in Samsung’s favour, ordering Apple to publish a notice on its website confirming there was no registered Community design infringement
Number of design applications hit record high last year

*Year-end September 30th 2022

Max Thoma