Design rights can be used as tools to assert and protect one of the key assets of your business. A design right is the legal protection offered to the appearance of a product or to a part of a product.

In the European Union (EU), protection is given both to registered and unregistered designs. In many other jurisdictions, registration is necessary for protection. Nevertheless, even if there is an unregistered protection in the EU, registration is, in most cases, recommended. A registered design is valid for five years. It can be extended to a maximum of 25 years. The registered design gives the proprietor exclusive right to the design in the course of trade. This exclusivity includes any design which does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression. In contrast, an unregistered design is protected only for three years from the date the design was first made available to the public in the EU. The unregistered design only protects against an intentional copy of the earlier design.

Design registration is possible in three ways: (1) national registration, (2) EU registration and (3) international registration.

  • An application is filed at the local registration agency. In Sweden, this is the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (Sw. Patent- och Registreringsverket, “PRV”). A national design registration obtains a national protection. The exclusivity offered by a Swedish design registration is therefore limited to Sweden.
  • An EU registration (a Registered Community Design or “RCD”) is made to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (“OHIM”) located in Alicante, Spain. An RCD registration protects the design in all 28 countries of the EU in one single registration.
  • The international design system is administrated by the World Intellectual Property organization (“WIPO”) seated in Geneva, Switzerland. In contrast to the international trademark system, no prior national registration or application is needed. Instead, an international application directly designates the jurisdictions where the design is to be protected. Currently, the international system is available in 62 jurisdictions all over the world.

For further information, please contact David Leffler.

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