Unregistered versus Registered Designs
As the name suggests, registered designs must be centrally registered at an intellectual property office in order to have effect, whereas unregistered designs come into effect automatically (i.e. without any formal registration process).
The scope of protection and the criteria for infringement vary greatly between registered and unregistered design rights.
In the UK and in Europe, registered designs are a monopolistic right, as opposed to unregistered design rights (which are a form of copyright, that is they require copying for there to be infringement). As a result, and since registered and unregistered design rights are distinct but complementary, it is preferable to have both modes of protection in place.
There are two different types of unregistered design rights available in the UK – Community (European) Unregistered Designs and UK Unregistered Designs.
Community Unregistered Designs come into effect automatically when the design is first made available to the public within the European Union, and last for three years. UK Unregistered Designs come into effect when a design is created, and lasts for either 10 years after a product incorporating the design was first sold or 15 years after the design was created, depending on which of these events took place earlier.
Community and UK Unregistered Designs rights have different scopes of protection. Furthermore, there exist major differences in what is and isn’t protected by unregistered design rights compared to registered design rights.
As a result, UK and European designers have a pool of options for protecting and enforcing their designs, which if use correctly should place them in good stead against infringers.
The scope of protection and the criteria for infringement vary greatly between registered and unregistered design rights