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We Protect Inventions, Innovations and Brands in United Kingdom, Europe,and around the World

Unregistered Community Designs

Similar criteria for subsistence apply to unregistered Community designs to those of registered Community designs, that is the unregistered Community design must be original and have individual character in order to qualify for protection.

Protection is applicable from the date of disclosure of the design to the public within the European union, where disclosure includes marketing, publicly disclosing or sale of the design. Qualifying designs are protected as unregistered European Community designs for a period of 3 years from the date of disclosure.

The major difference in the extent of the protection given by a registered Community design over that of an unregistered Community design is that the registered Community design can protect against both copying and independent creation of an identical/similar design. An unregistered Community design will be protected against copying only.

MACIPO & ASSOCIATES advises frequently on the protection of designs and on related copyright issues. We handle the filing and prosecution of Registered Design applications in the UK, the European Community and other overseas territories. We also advise in relation to the rights applicable to unregistered designs in the European Community and the UK.

Design protection is often of particular relevance in circumstances where patent protection is not available or may not provide very effective protection, and we are well-placed to advise on the relative strengths and weaknesses of any available patent protection and design protection in such cases.

With the changes in the registered design law in Europe effected in recent years, it is now possible to register a wide range of types of design in both the UK and the European Community. It may therefore be possible to supplement copyright protection and/or trade mark protection in graphically represented subject matter, by means of Registered Design Protection.


As with UK unregistered design right, unregistered Community design protection attaches to the shape and configuration as applied to a product. Unlike the UK right however, the Community version also attaches to the appearance of a product resulting from the lines, colors, texture and/or materials and/or from ornamentation and surface decoration of a product.

Unregistered Community designs are not an absolute form of protection in that, in order to successfully pursue an infringer, it is necessary to show that the features of the design in question were copied. In comparison, for a design which is protected by a formal Design registration, it is merely a matter of considering the similarities between the design irrespective of whether or not the alleged infringing design might have been created quite independently from reference to the registered design.

An unregistered Community design does not require an application procedure and has a term of three years from the date when the design was first made available to the public in the Community. However, in order to qualify for protection, the design must be novel in that it must differ from prior designs by more than immaterial details, and must also have a so-called individual character insofar as it should produce a different overall impression from earlier designs on an informed user.

The right to an unregistered Community design belongs primarily to the designer or his/her successors in title. Designs created by an employee during the execution of his/her employment duties however can vest in the employer. Unlike UK unregistered design right there are no qualification requirements and so any party of any nationality can own an unregistered Community design.


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