The beauty of UDRs is that they are created automatically along with the designs they protect, without any application process or other formality. This often makes them the weapon of choice where otherwise unprotected products are imitated.
Design rights protect the appearance of a product, not the way it works nor any underlying principle of its construction. Components parts of complex products are protectable by design right only if they are visible in normal use of the product, so for example a motor car’s outward appearance benefits from design right but many “under the bonnet” components do not.
Unregistered design right only protects against actual copying of your design. A competitor whose design is created independently does not infringe (registered designs are different in this respect).
Not all countries offer this type of protection but in particular there is a species of UDR provided by UK national law and a separate but somewhat similar right which applies throughout the European Union. The European form of the right is short lived, expiring three years from first public disclosure. UK unregistered design right lasts somewhat longer – ten years from first marketing or fifteen years from creation of the design, whichever is shorter, and subject to a right for others to pay for a licence in the last five years of this period if they choose to.
To ensure that you are in a good position to assert UDR if it proves necessary, it is good practice to keep records of the design process – when designs are created and by whom, when and how the corresponding products are put in the public domain. Also where designs are externally created ownership should be clarified at an early stage. We can advise on these aspects, which are normally straightforward provided consideration is given to them in advance.
The use of UDRs to further your commercial goals, and their enforcement where necessary, are topics with which we have long familiarity.
For more visible, long lasting and in some respects stronger protection, designs can be registered.