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Protecting Your New Product – Should You Register the Design?

By Keith Loven

We’ve had several businesses seeking advice about protecting their new products recently and in each case there has been a problem with design registration.

On the face of it registering the design looks like a good idea – it’s quick, it’s relatively cheap, and it doesn’t appear to involve any legal expertise, so why not? The problems arose in three areas.

Firstly, there is a potential trap in when you apply to register – do it too soon and you could lose the chance of getting patent protection, but if you leave it too late, you might give yourself a problem with protecting the design in other countries. We had to advise one client that, because the first thing he had done was to register the design himself more than a year previously, he could not now get a patent for the features shown in the design as a design registration is made public very soon after the application date. It was also no longer possible to get corresponding design protection in any other country.

Secondly, you need to understand that design registration is not a cheap alternative to getting a patent. Another client thought that by registering the design he was protecting the idea behind it. We had to explain that a registered design protects the novel appearance of the design as shown in the illustrations filed. It can cover designs whose appearance gives the same impression as the registered design. But it does not cover designs that do the same job in the same way but look different.

Thirdly, you need to think carefully about how you depict your product in the design application. Although you can just submit photographs, or quick hand-drawn sketches, using these could give you problems if you ever need to enforce your rights. The scope of design protection depends on what is shown in the representations. If your representations inadvertently include details that are not actually part of the design – from shading to background features, or even just wiggly hand-drawn lines that should have been straight – they might be interpreted as being essential to the design. You should therefore budget for the preparation of proper design drawings.

5 Tips:

  1. Design registration is useful, but it is not a substitute for patent protection;
  2. If patenting is a possibility – and you should get professional advice on this as early as possibly – DO NOT file your design application until you have a patent application on file;
  3. Even if you are not seeking a patent, wait until your product design is finalised for the market before registering the design. If you file too soon, your final design might look different.
  4. Don’t rely on photographs or CAD illustrations for your design registration – get proper design representations prepared. We can arrange for drawings to be prepared by specialist IP illustrators.
  5. Are there going to be different versions of the product, or even just other products launched at the same time? If so, you can save money by registering them all in a single application in the UK.

For advice on protecting your products, please speak to Keith Loven on 01522 801113.

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Without an attorney to handle the complex legal and technical issues involved in obtaining good patent and trademark protection, you are very likely to end up with something too narrow in its scope and therefore easy to get round. Trying to save money on a patent or trademark application can prove to be costly down the line. Looking to protect your designs, brand or inventions the right way? Call us today:
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