Guide

Protecting and handling your design

Introduction

Intellectual property, including design, is a valuable business asset and knowing how to protect it can be critical to your business success. Depending on the type of design you create, your work may be eligible for protection under copyright, trade mark or design right legislation.

There are two types of design rights in the UK: the unregistered design right and registered design.

Design right is granted automatically when a new design is created. It only applies to shape and configuration of objects and lasts up to a maximum of 15 years.

Design registration lasts for up to 25 years and covers the overall appearance of the product, including shape, configuration, pattern and ornamentation. A registered design right gives you exclusive rights to commercially use, licence or sell your design. For a detailed comparison of the two rights, see our guide: design right and registration.

This guide shows you how to manage your registered designs and make changes to them. It provides guidance on how to enforce your design protection, defend against design infringements and resolve disputes. You can also find out how to buy design rights, object to design registrations, protect your design abroad and how to respect design rights.

This guide applies specifically to design rights in the UK. Within the European Union (EU), designs can be protected through Registered Community Designs (RCDs) and Community Design Right, which is unregistered. These cover the whole of the EU, and are therefore relevant to UK businesses.