How the UK and European registered design processes work

Relative to other IP rights, registered designs are inexpensive, and the registration process is generally simple and relatively quick, making them well suited for the fast-paced product life cycles. Registering a design is the best way to protect your IP and to prevent others from copying it, but getting started with the application can be overwhelming at first.


Representations form an essential part of a Community (European) registered design. As such, they should be prepared carefully to ensure that the design, once registered, covers the intended scope. Various styles of representations (e.g. photographs, line drawings, CAD drawings, etc) are acceptable, albeit that each style may carry with it different limitations on scope. For more information on representations for community registered designs, please see our dedicated section on representations.


Once representations are ready, the application will be filed at either or both of the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) and European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Both offices allow multiple designs in the same official classification to be deposited within a single ‘multi-part application’; with this, the cost of filing per design decreases with the number of designs deposited.


Once filed, the UKIPO/EUIPO examines the application only on the basis of formalities, which includes checking whether the representations are consistent and suitable for reproduction. The UKIPO/EUIPO does not substantively examine the application on the basis of a prior art search (as typically occurs in patent prosecution). Instead, third parties may request invalidation of a registered design. As a result, in the normal course of events, community registered design applications typically proceed to registration within a few days of being filed.


Although designs can be allowed to publish upon registration, applicants may prefer to defer publication of their design until some time after filing so as to keep their designs secret. Generally, publication can be deferred for up to 12 months after filing in the UK and up to 30 months after filing in the EU.


To remain in force, UK and EU registered designs must be renewed every five years after the filing date by paying an official maintenance fee. The maximum term of a UK or EU registered is 25 years from filing, after which the registered design expires.