Appleyard Lees

Designs & Copyright

Everything has to look like something, but when you consider that in many sectors the appearance of a product can be the difference between commercial success and failure, the value in investing in, and in protecting good design becomes apparent.

Although not all products are going to incorporate the sort of life-changing design input aspired to by “product designers” in the classical sense, or even have aesthetics which are intended to appeal to consumers, both major ground breaking designs and minor design details can have long lasting value.

We have seen an upsurge in activity in design registration, which on both UK and European Community levels can give rapid access to enforceable legal rights. The streamlined registration processes, combined with changes made in the UK courts to facilitate access to justice in straightforward IP cases, and increased acknowledgement of registered designs in the procedures and systems of on-line marketplaces and border officials mean that registered designs are now seen as an important part of the rights-holder’s arsenal.

The intellectual property system creates a framework that includes more than just registered designs, a framework within which many aspects of design work can be protected, and exploited. Establishing ownership of design work, the mechanisms by which protection can be obtained, and the options for enforcement of rights in this field are particularly complicated because of the potential for overlapping rights. There is also potential for overlap with trade mark and patent rights. These combine to give a situation in which detailed legal knowledge is needed across a range of fields in order to drill down to the relevant facts and then formulate a business case for action when it comes to strategic planning with design and creative teams.

David ClarkPartner