A design protects the outward appearance of a product.
The firm Zsp Patentanwälte PartG mbH in Munich has experienced in filing designs and representing clients in nullity and cancellation proceedings in design matters.
Distinctive features of the outward appearance can result from the lines, contours, colors, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation. For example, clock faces, golf clubs, clothes or an electrical socket can be the object of a design. In view of all kinds of imitations of industrial products in a globalized market, the protection of designs has an ever increasing economic importance. Like the utility model, the design is an unexamined protective right.
The object of design:
The object of design law, i.e. the aesthetic design for which protection is sought, must be novel and exhibit characteristic features, i.e. it must convey a different overall impression. Excluded from design law are for example features of products that are merely caused by their technical function, because said features are covered by patent and utility model law.
The applicant of a design enjoys a period of grace. It starts 12 months before the filing date and applies to disclosures that were made in said period of time and can be traced back to the designer or his legal successor. A design confers to the registered owner a negative exclusive right vis-à-vis third parties for a maximum of 25 years from the filing date.
The Community design law of the European Union, which is similar to German design law, became effective on March 6, 2002. Besides a maximum period of protection of 25 years for a registered Community design, the Community Design Regulation (CDR) also offers a three year protection against imitation as from the date of disclosure of the design for disclosed unregistered Community designs. The prerequisite for this is that the corresponding interested circles within the Community have become aware of the disclosure. After its registration, the Community design has a direct protective effect in each member state.
In addition to the company trademark, the design of the product of a company can contribute essentially to the level of recognition and the image of a company. The registered design grants to its owner the exclusive right to prohibit third parties from manufacturing, offering, marketing, importing, exporting or using a product which incorporates the design or in which it is used and that does not convey a different overall impression as well as from owning such a product for the aforementioned purposes. Thus, a design right can effectively prevent third parties from becoming beneficiaries from your investments in an innovate design.