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Design Rights in the UK

At Saunders Law, our lawyers have substantial experience and expertise in advising individuals and businesses on their design rights, as well as their enforcement options if a dispute arises.

Our design right solicitors in London understand how valuable your design rights are, especially when they form a crucial part of your intellectual property. As such, the importance of ensuring your design rights are properly managed and protected cannot be underestimated.

We provide straightforward and commercially sound advice in relation to design rights in the UK, with the primary aim being able to find a swift resolution of any issues that may be at hand. As a firm, we have gained a strong reputation for our successful work in this particular field and are well regarded for our ability to tirelessly fight our client’s corner where enforcement action is a necessary step.

If litigation is the only logical method of resolving a dispute related to design rights, we can use a robust yet discrete approach to defend our client’s interests. We also offer various funding options for these matters and will strive to ensure that the work remains as cost-effective as possible.

Our design right expertise includes matters involving:

  • Unregistered and registered design rights
  • Design rights contracts
  • Enforcing design rights
  • Defending design right infringement

Operating from offices in the City of London, our media law solicitors also have a wide range of expertise in other related matters, including in relation to copyright, intellectual property disputes, trademark infringements and NFT disputes.

Find out more about the firm, its teams and its typical work by taking a look at our clients.

Speak to our design right lawyers in London

For expert assistance with design rights in the UK or any related other areas of media law, contact Saunders Law today for a free, no obligation initial discussion of how we may be able to help.

Call us on 02076324300 or make an enquiry online.

Why work with our design rights solicitors?

More than 40 years’ experience

At Saunders Law, our partner-led team have more than 40 years of combined expertise and experience in media law matters, including those related to design rights. We use our experience to support and advise our clients on a wide range of matters associated with design rights, including issues related to design right infringement and enforcement.

No matter what the circumstances may be, we always make sure to take reputational matters into consideration when providing design right advice, which means we have an excellent track record of successfully protecting our client’s interests.

Independently recognised expertise

Our design rights solicitors have been independently recognised for our market-leading expertise, with strong rankings in highly respected client guides, the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.

Our design rights team is headed by Will Charlesworth, who has also been independently recognised for his intellectual property law expertise in the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.

Commercially minded approach to match our client’s priorities

Regardless of what the design rights relate to and what the wider context may be, our team always make sure to plan out a carefully tailored strategy that aligns with our client’s priorities. We have strong skills in both out of court settlement and litigation for resolving disputes related to design rights in the UK, which means that we will be well positioned to advise on the most appropriate approach, which is based on your specific needs.

Exceptional personal service & client satisfaction

Our design rights solicitors are proud to be consistently able to deliver an exceptional service to all of our clients. You will always receive a call back on the same day following an enquiry, and you will have the opportunity to speak to one of our partners whenever required. As a result of this, we consistently achieve excellent feedback from our clients.

How we can support with design right matters

Unregistered and registered design rights

In the UK, there are two types of design rights that you should be aware of. These are unregistered and registered design rights.

An unregistered design right works in a similar way to copyright in that it will automatically arise following the act of creating a design. It works by protecting the shape, configuration, and appearance of the design.

The owner of a design right will be the original creator of the design unless it was designed during the process of a person’s employment. In these cases, the design rights are owned by the employer.

UK unregistered design rights protect the shape and configuration of a design for ten years after it was first sold or 15 years from when it was created – whichever period is the first to expire. The appearance of the product is protected in the UK for three years from the date the design is made public (known as supplementary unregistered design right).

For more comprehensive protection, it is possible to register a design. To do, the design must meet certain eligibility criteria. Registered design rights provide protection for 25 years. They can be registered in the UK by registration to the UK Intellectual Property Office and in the EU by application to the European Intellectual Property Office.

Having a registered design also protects against anyone who develops a later design which infringes the design right.

Our design rights solicitors can advise you in relation to both unregistered and registered design rights, ensuring that you understand exactly what is protected and what steps you can take if you believe that your right has been infringed.

For unregistered designs, we can also guide you through the process of applying for registered design rights through both the UK Intellectual Property Office and the European Intellectual Property Office, where appropriate.

Design rights contracts

Often, there can be a degree of confusion over who owns a specific design right. For instance, design rights will be owned by an individual designer unless they were created in the course of their employment with a company.

Similarly, if a third party was commissioned to create a design, they will have the design rights unless they have been assigned via a contract.

Our design rights solicitors can advise you in relation to creating a design rights contract to ensure you have the correct authority and any potential disputes can be avoided.

Enforcing design rights

If your unregistered or registered design rights have been infringed, or the ownership of your design rights are being questioned by another party, we can help to establish your position and advise you on the steps that need to be taken.

In these situations, our design right solicitors can work to negotiate with the party or parties that are responsible for infringing your design right, clearly setting out the facts of the matter and what actions need to be taken to reach a settlement out of court.

However, if your design rights have been infringed and an out of court settlement cannot be reached, we can work alongside you to bring forward proceedings to the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court or build an effective case that can be used to take alternative enforcement action.

Defending design rights infringement

It may be the case that you have used a design with the belief that you owned the rights or that your use of the design did not break any rules. However, if another party is willing to take enforcement action against you if they believe that you have unfairly used a design, we can step in to address the details of the claim and ensure you receive fair representation.

Our design rights solicitors can carefully evaluate the situation and whether a claim of design right infringement has been properly made and determine who has the rights to the design.

It is crucial to seek legal advice in this state, especially as this will help to maximise the potential of reaching a favourable outcome.

Frequently asked questions about design rights in the UK

What is meant by design right?

Put simply, design rights work to protect the visual appearance of a product or item. Design rights, whether they are unregistered or registered, provide exclusive rights for the appearance and can provide an owner with authority to prevent another party from using it without permission or a legal agreement.

How do I protect a design in the UK?

Design rights work in much the same way as copyright in the UK, in that protection is automatically applied when something is created. It is not a requirement to apply to register the design rights, similar to the fact that it is not a necessity to mark any other creations with the copyright symbol.

If you decide to register a design, this will work to protect all aspects of said design and give you the right to prevent others from using it for up to 25 years. You are required to renew a registered design every five years.

What is an example of design rights?

There are a wide range of examples which demonstrate what design rights can be applied to. This includes graphic designs, 3D product shapes, stylised logos, symbols, packaging and digital media products.

What do Design rights protect?

Design rights in the UK protect the shape, configuration and appearance of a product. This can be the whole product or a part of a product that results from the lines, contours, shape, texture or materials, or ornamentation.

Who owns a design right?

Typically, the creator of a design will own the design rights. However, if the design was created during the course of employment, the rights will belong to the employer.

Also, if the design was officially commissioned via a contract, the party that commissioned the work will have the design rights.

How long do design rights last?

The following time limits apply to unregistered design rights in the UK:

  • The shape and configuration of a design is protected for ten years after it was first sold or 15 years from when it was created – whichever period is the first to expire.
  • The appearance of the product is protected in the UK for three years from the date the design is made public (known as supplementary unregistered design right).

When a design is registered, comprehensive protection is provided for 25 years. This protection needs to be renewed every five years.

Do I need to register my designs?

You do not need to register designs for them to be protected. There are no applications or fees necessary to receive unregistered design rights.

That being said, registering a design does provide additional protection and can make the process of taking legal action against infringement and copying more straightforward.

Speak to our design right lawyers in London

For expert assistance with design rights in the UK or any related other areas of media law, contact Saunders Law today for a free, no obligation initial discussion of how we may be able to help.

Call us on 020 7632 4300 or make an enquiry online.