There are two kinds of Community designs:
- unregistered Community design; and
- registered Community design.
The design is not deemed to have been made available to the public for the sole reason that it has been disclosed to a third person under explicit or implicit conditions of confidentiality.
The rights granted, however, differ. RCDs entitle holders to exclusive rights to use, make, offer, put on the market, import, export or stock products incorporating the protected design, and to prevent others from doing so with products incorporating the protected design and that do not produce a different overall impression.
UCDs holders can only prevent others from using the design at a commercial level if the use results from copying. Consequently, there is no infringement if the design has been created independently by a second designer (who can prove not being aware of the existence of the protected design).
Further information regarding the concept behind design in the context of Intellectual Property (IP).
Further information on designs in the EU.
Further information on design registration validation period and how to apply.
This means simplified formalities with:
- a single application,
- a single language of filing,
- a single administrative centre,
- a single file to be managed,
- a single payment,
- the possibility of filing multiple applications (i.e. to include several designs in one application, such as a whole range of similar products),
- the possibility of keeping the design undisclosed for up to 30 months (so it is not revealed to competitors).
Further information on Community design advantages.
It is the appearance of the product to which the design is applied that is protected, although using specific materials such as wood may add something to this outward appearance.
The right conferred will not grant the exclusive right to manufacture a specific product in wood. Competitors would still be allowed to manufacture their product in wood if their design meets the requirements of novelty and individual character.
Examples of designs.
Design application criteria.
If they are visible during the normal use of a complex product, they are not necessarily excluded from registration but they will have limited protection. It is possible to produce and sell such registered components specifically to repair an original product without infringing the registered Community design. If they are not visible in normal use they will not be excluded from protection through registration, but they will not benefit from the legal protection accorded to Community designs as the EUIPO does not conduct any substantive examination before registration.
For further information, please consult:
Interconnections don not usually include alternative configurations as in the case of modular systems.
Applications to register ‘interconnections’ will not be excluded from protection through registration, but they will not benefit from the legal protection accorded to a Community design as the EUIPO does not conduct any substantive examination before registration.
A Community design will be protected if it meets the legal requirements of novelty and individual character at the time of filing. The protection granted by a Community design extends to the lines, contours, colours, shape and/or texture of a product to which it is applied or that incorporates them.
A three-dimensional EU trade mark will be registered if the product itself is considered to be a sign that distinguishes the applicant’s goods from those of another person or undertaking in a similar business. The protection granted by an EU trade mark is related to the distinctiveness of the sign itself compared to identical reproductions and signs with visual, phonetic or conceptual similarities leading to a likelihood of confusion.
It is possible, for example, to protect packaging as both an EU trade mark and as a registered Community design if they meet the corresponding legal requirements: a novel shape becomes synonymous with a company’s goods/services and may then be registered as a trade mark, as well as being registered as a Community design on the grounds of its individual character and novelty.
See examples of 3D trade marks in the Guidelines, Part B, Examination, Section 2, Formalities, paragraph 9.3.
Further information on designs.
The characteristic of novelty does not apply to trade marks and the characteristic of distinctiveness does not apply to designs.
A trade mark has no time limit (it can be renewed indefinitely for periods of 10 years), whereas a registered Community design has a maximum of 25 years’ duration from the filing date.
For more information about patents, please consult the European Patent Register.
A design only covers the appearance of a product. A design does not protect the function of a product.
When protecting a product with both a patent and a design registration (i.e. a new product can perfectly include both new functions and a new appearance), the timing of the applications will be crucial, as it must be ensured that the publishing of one or other of the rights does not preclude the finding of novelty for the other application.
- Further information regarding some differences and similarities between design and other types of IP rights: relation to other IP rights (patents, copyright and trade marks) *You need to be logged in.
- Further information on registered Community designs (RCD).
- Further information on IP Basics.
Further information on the list of countries and regions that provide utility model protection.
To publish a design after a period of deferment of publication, you must pay the relevant publication fees and, where necessary, submit the depiction of the design (if the application included a specimen) within 27 months of the filing or any priority date.
Further information regarding publishing your design.
Further information on fees and payments.
This is particularly useful for small businesses that frequently lack the resources to finance a systematic registration of designs that might not always be successful on the market.
Further information on design filing tips and best practices.
Further information about the DesignEuropa Awards and how to apply.
The questions and answers provided on this page serve a purely informative purpose and are not a legal point of reference. Please consult the European Union Trade mark and Community Design Regulations or Trade mark / Design Guidelines for further details.
For more information about how the Office handles your personal data, please consult the Data protection notice.