Protection of Designs

In many cases, the design of a product is one of the crucial factors for success. As a consequence, there is specific legislation for the protection of design in most countries. However, the conditions of protection as well as the extent to which designs are protected differ considerably in various countries.

In Germany, a design (i. e. the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation) is protected by way of national registration if it is new and if it has individual character. It is considered to be new if no identical design has been made available to the public before the date of filing of the application for registration of the design. It is considered to have individual character if the overall impression it produces on the informed user differs from the overall impression produced on such a user by any design which has been made available to the public before the date of filing the application for registration. However, it is important to note that the German Patent and Trademark Office does not examine if the filed designs are indeed new and have individual character. Rather, the German Patent and Trademark Office only examines the formal requirements such as the payment of the registration fee or the indication of the products in which the design is intended to be incorporated or to which it is intended to be applied. As a consequence, the validity of a registered design is challenged regularly in cases of conflict.

If the registered design is new and has individual character, the scope of protection includes any design which does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression than the design as specified in the registered reproductions.

In 2002, the European Union introduced the so-called Registered Community Design (RCD) with effect in the entire EU. The requirements of protection as well as the scope of protection of the RCD are essentially identical with the national German registered design. In addition, the European Union also introduced the so-called unregistered Community Design which is protected against copying of the design for the duration of 3 years without registration if it is new and has individual character.

In Germany, a particular design may also be protected by copyright law as well as unfair competition law. In both cases, registration of the design in question is no requirement and the term of protection is not limited to 3 years.

We would like to advise and assist you in all matters regarding the protection of designs in Germany, the European Union and beyond. In addition, we would like to assist you in enforcing your rights as well as defending yourselves against alleged design infringement.