Aspects of Design - How Each is Protected
Generally, design protection covers the outward appearance of a product as opposed to its function. However, the law is a little more complex in that different aspects of design benefit from different forms of protection.
Designs Judged by Eye Appeal: If the design of your product is primarily judged on eye appeal and is original, it is likely to be protectable by way of a registered design. However, this protection does not extend to spare parts, components or parts whose design is determined by the shape of the whole into which it is intended to fit.
A registered design gives you the exclusive right in the UK to make, import, sell or hire any product to which the design has been applied; to licence others to do so; and to take legal action against those who take these actions without your consent. These rights last for an initial period of five years from registration period, extendable up to 25 years by renewal.
Since October 2001 registered design rights are extended specifically to icons, typefaces and other aspects of the appearance of software on screen.
Other Designs: If your product is not primarily judged by eye appeal, then design right protection may be available. However the design must still be original. As with registered design protection, if the design is effectively no more than the shape of a component, which shape is determined by the whole, it is probably unprotectable.
Design right protection lasts for fifteen years from making the design or ten years from the marketing of products to that design. A design right allows you to prevent others from producing the design or making products to the design for commercial purposes without your consent. Similar protection is available for semi-conductor chip topography.
Artistic Designs: Works of sculpture, wall plaques, medals, medallions, printed matter and works of artistic craftsmanship are not generally afforded design protection but are protected by copyright .