Protecting your intellectual property abroad

Protecting designs abroad


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:

Using unregistered design rights
You may also be able to rely on automatic unregistered design rights in the countries concerned, for example the Unregistered Community Design (UCD) right which covers the whole of the EU.

A UCD comes into existence automatically when the design is first made available to the public within the EU Community. It is protected for a period of three years from the date on which the design was first made available. After three years, the protection cannot be extended.

From 1 January 2021, UCDs have ceased to have effect in the UK. New types of rights have been introduced to compensate for the loss of UCDs: Continuing Unregistered Designs (CUD) and Supplementary Unregistered Design (SUD). For current information on these, see: changes to unregistered designs from 1 January 2021.

Claiming a priority date
You may be able to claim a priority date if you apply for design protection in another country, within six months of applying for the same design in the UK.

This means having the date on which you applied for the earlier design accepted as the date on which you filed the later application.

Priority dates are only granted in countries which have signed the Paris Convention or are members of the World Trade Organization.

European design protection

If you want design protection in countries which are members of the EU, you can apply for a Registered Community Design (RCD). An 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.

You can apply for an RCD through the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) or through the UK Intellectual Property Office (for a fee). Anyone can apply for a RCD.

The fee for registering and publishing one RCD is €350 for five years' protection.

From 1 January 2021, RCDs have ceased to have effect in the UK. All RCDs existing before this date have been automatically cloned into equivalent UK registered designs. For current information, see: changes to EU and international designs and trade mark protection from 1 January 2021.

If you are seeking registered design protection for a new design in both the UK and EU, you will have to submit separate applications to the UKIPO and EUIPO.

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. The cost to apply depends on which and how many countries you want your design to be protected in.

Find details on how to file an industrial design application through the Hague System.

From 1 January 2021, protected international design registrations designating the EU have ceased to have effect in the UK. On this date, such registrations have been automatically replaced by equivalent UK rights. For current information on these, see: international EU protected designs after 1 January 2021.

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.

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