Other Types of Intellectual Property

Design Rights – Protection for Appearance

Design rights can exist in the appearance of the products that you create, make or sell.

Design rights are afforded to the look of almost anything from food to furniture, textiles to tools, cosmetics to clocks and machines to musical instruments and everything in between. In particular, they can protect the following features:

  • lines
  • contours
  • colours
  • shape
  • texture or materials
  • ornamentation


What do design rights protect?

Design right protection is afforded to the visual appearance of a product on the condition that it is new and has individual character.

Design rights are not given to products or parts of products that are shaped in a particular way to achieve a function. For example, the handle of a key could be given design protection but the ‘bit’ (or part that fits into the lock) could not.

What is the geographical coverage of your design right?

Design rights offer territorial protection – they only arise in the country or territory in which they are filed.

At Brabners we can directly file both UK Design Rights and European (Community) Design Rights, which give protection in all 28 countries of the European Community. We also have a breadth of trusted foreign attorneys with whom we work to file design rights all over the world.

What can you do with your design right?

Both registered and unregistered design right protection allow the owner the exclusive right to exploit the work and prevent others from:

  • making a product that incorporates the design,
  • offering/putting on the market a product that incorporates the design,
  • importing/exporting a product that incorporates the design, or
  • using or stocking a product that incorporates the design for the above-mentioned purposes.


This also means that no one else can do any of the above with anything that incorporates your design without your consent.

Who owns the design right?

Design right protection usually afforded to the designer of the work, however, if something is designed in the course of employment, the employer is usually the owner. With commissioned designs the owner is usually the commissioner unless agreed otherwise.

How long do design rights last?

Registered design rights can be protected for up to 25 years, provided that it is renewed every five years up to this point.

Unregistered design rights last for the shorter of 15 years from the year of creation, or 10 years from the date the relevant product was made available for sale.