design rightsthe legal ownership by persons or businesses of original designs of the shape or configuration of industrial products. In the UK, the COPYRIGHT, DESIGNS AND PATENTS ACT 1988 gives protection to the creators of industrial designs against unauthorized copying for a period of 10 years after the first marketing of the product. Design right protection is automatic and there are no registration requirements. Design right is an exclusive right for five years after first marketing and then becomes subject to licences of right for the remaining five years. If a design right is infringed, the design right owner (or licensee) may seek an injunction from the courts preventing further abuses, with offenders liable to pay damages/fines.
Under the Registered Design Act 1949, designs judged to be original solely by their outward appearance (i.e. by ‘eye appeal’ and not by their functioning) can be registered with the Designs Registry, a branch of the PATENT OFFICE. This facility has been continued by the 1988 Act which increased the term of protection for registered designs from a maximum of 15 years to 25 years.