Eddie Walker discusses the advantages of filing design registrations in comparison to patent applications.

Why file design registrations

  • Design registrations are usually granted or certified much faster than patents (potentially many years earlier) facilitating early enforcement action
  • In many countries, design registrations are granted or certified with little or no examination, making the likelihood of achieving grant or certification much higher than for patents. Even where full examination takes place, the process tends to be more straightforward
  • Prosecution costs are generally much lower than for patents
  • Design registrations can offer clear protection against direct copying of a design, without requiring interpretation of any patent language
  • Design registrations can offer protection for modest variations of the design and can leave competitors uncertain about what variations (“design arounds”) may be sufficient to avoid infringement
  • In Europe, design protection lasts for up to 25 years, longer than the 20 year patent term. In some countries protection is shorter, however
The main drawback in comparison to patent protection is that, if a competitor can make a product look sufficiently different to the registered design, while achieving most or all of its technical advantages, they can avoid infringement. In essence, a patent protects the way something works, regardless of how it looks, whereas a registered design protects the way something looks, regardless of how it works. In combination, however, the two forms of protection can provide a formidable barrier to competitors entering the market.
More information on registered designs can be found here.