The trend is clear – design protection is increasingly gaining in importance, as can be seen from the Registered Community Designs (referred to as “registered European designs” below), which already number over 700,000 as at the end of 2016. While designs were primarily used to prevent product piracy in the past, companies are now increasingly recognizing the much wider significance of design protection: this comparatively inexpensive protection right is a means of driving not only product imitations out of the market, but also variations of the product produced by competitors. This is because design law also allows the owner of the protective right to be creative when filing a design. By deliberately filing a multitude of similar design variations of a product, design right owners can anticipate variations of the product that may be produced by third parties, thus making it much more difficult to circumvent design protection. In principle, every new product design is eligible for protection, which is why it is important to consider design protection independently of sector as well as across all sectors.
Rights arising from a European design, whether registered or not, are frequently enforceable for the whole territory of the European Union with immediate effect. While a non-registered European design protects the design right owner from imitations (although only for three years as from the date on which the design was first published in the European Union), a Registered European or German design confers an unrestricted monopoly for 25 years and is generally easier to enforce in the courts.
BARDEHLE PAGENBERG’s attorneys-at-law have been at the forefront of design law for many years. They have established and continue to maintain an up-to-date collection of the emerging national and European design case law, which reflects the particular legal expertise with which we represent the interests of our clients.
BARDEHLE PAGENBERG represents and advises clients in the sectors of fashion and shoes, computers, consumer electronics, and in the furniture and sporting goods industries. We provide advice relating to issues ranging from the development and implementation of filing strategies, to expert opinions on the validity and infringement of design rights, through to cross-border enforcement of such rights.
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