Product designs, your name and logo, inventions and trademarks make up your business' intellectual property (IP). These are possibly the most valuable assets your business has and you need to protect them.
Design rights are automatically protected in the UK for a maximum of 15 years without the need to register. Unregistered designs are also automatically protected in the European Union (EU) for three years, but registering a design gives you more protection. For more information, see our guide on design right and registration. You can also find out about intellectual property support on the Invest Northern Ireland website.
Protecting your designs throughout Europe
To protect your design for five years in all 28 EU countries, you can apply for a registered community design at the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). If other countries become members, your registration is automatically extended.
Alternatively, apply for registration of your design through the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs, administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Your design will be protected in all EU countries and a further 24 countries that have signed the agreement.
Protecting your designs worldwide
Beyond the EU, you usually need to protect your IP rights by registering with individual countries, although some countries may allow you to extend your UK protection after completing certain local formalities. See a list of countries that extend UK IP protection on the Intellectual Property Office website.