Protecting your intellectual property abroad

Design protection overseas

Guide

Registering your design in the UK does not protect it abroad. If you want to register your design in countries other than the UK, there are a number of ways in which you can do so:

Designs in Europe


Registered Community Designs
If you want design protection in countries which are members of the EU, you can apply for a RCD through the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). You can also apply for a RCD through the UK Intellectual Property Office (for a fee). Anyone can apply for a RCD.

RCD gives you the exclusive right to use your design in all EU countries. It allows you to take action against infringements and stop imports into the EU of goods that infringe your design.

On 1 January 2021, at the end of EU Exit transition period, all existing RCDs will no longer provide protection in the UK. These rights will be immediately and automatically replaced by equivalent UK rights which will be known as re-registered designs. If you own an existing right, you do not need to do anything at this stage. For current information on these, see: changes to EU and international designs and trade mark protection from 1 January 2021.

Unregistered Community Designs
Prior to 1 January 2021, UK businesses were able to rely on automatic Unregistered Community Design rights in the EU. An unregistered Community Design is given protection for a period of three years from the date on which the design was first made available to the public within the territory of the European Union. After three years, the protection cannot be extended.

Any unregistered community design that arises before the end of the EU Exit transition period will continue to be protected in the UK for the remainder of its three year term through a Continuing Unregistered Design (CUD). In addition, from 1 January 2021, a supplementary unregistered design (SUD) will become available in UK law. It will provide similar protection to that conferred by the Unregistered Community Design, but for the UK only. For current information on these, see: changes to unregistered designs from 1 January 2021.

International design registrations

The Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs allows you to simultaneously apply for a design in many different countries or territories, through a single application to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

An international application does not have to be based on an existing design application, or registration. Find details on how to file an industrial design application through the Hague System.

After 1 January 2021, protected international design registrations designating the EU will no longer be valid in the UK. On 1 January 2021, these rights will be immediately and automatically replaced by UK rights. If you own an existing right, you do not need to do anything at this stage. For current information on these, see: international EU protected designs after 1 January 2021.

For more information on design protection, see design right and registration.

Getting help

Design law across the world is a complex area. If you want to protect your designs overseas it is advisable to seek specialist help. Find a trade mark attorney or a patent attorney in your area.