Two kinds of design are capable of being protected by intellectual property rights.
Industrial designs ― 'design right'
The design of 'any aspect of the shape or configuration of the whole or part of an article' is protected by 'design right'. The right arises as soon as the design is recorded in a document or an article is made to the design, and does not depend on registration.
The first owner of design right is the person who employs the designer or who commissioned the design; otherwise it is the designer. Design right may be assigned or licensed to others. Design right enables the owner to control the reproduction of the design for commercial purposes, eg. by making articles to the design.
Design right lasts for 15 years from the first recording of the design or the first making of an article to the design, or, if articles are marketed in the first 5 years of that period, for 10 years from the first marketing.
Ornamental designs ― 'registered designs'
The visual appearance of a product, eg. the pattern of ceramics or textiles, can be protected by registration for up to 25 years as a 'registered design' in the UK Intellectual Property Office.
Where the design of a product is protected in the European Union (with or without registration) as a 'Community design', it may also be protected in the Isle of Man.
The law relating to design right is contained in the Design Right Act 1991, and that relating to registered designs in the UK Registered Designs Act 1949. For details click on 'Legislation' on the menu on the left hand side.
As part of the Department’s IP modernisation programme, a number of changes to design law have been or are being made. For more information click on the link on the left hand side of the page for ‘IP modernisation’.