A design is the appearance of a product or a part thereof, which results from the features of, in particular, the lines, the contours, the shape, the texture or the materials of the product itself or its ornamentation. Designs can be protected by registering the design. In the Benelux and EU, registration results in an exclusive right for a period of five years, which can be extended to a maximum of 25 years.
To register a design, the appearance needs to be new and have an individual character. Features of appearance of a product which are solely dictated by its technical function cannot be protected as a design. Patent law covers this form of protection. In the Benelux and the EU, novelty and individual character are not examined in the registration procedure, which makes the procedure relatively simple.
Design protection in the Benelux comes in four variants:
UNREGISTERED DESIGN PROTECTION
Products with a relatively short product life-
OVERLAP WITH OTHER IP RIGHTS
Designs may not only be protected by a design registration or the unregistered design protection scheme, but may also be protected via copyright or a trademark registration at the same time. This in particular applies to three-
Around the world many different names are given to design protection. For instance, the US protect designs via a design patent which is equivalent to the design registration in the EU, but may be confused with the patents protecting inventions. The latter are called utility patents in the US.
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