To register or not to register?

Written by Tom Synott | December 22, 2020

Design Rights

2020 has seen a flurry of large brands being accused of ripping off key designs and typically the victims are young designers who aren’t aware of their rights. These fall into two basic categories in the UK: i) registered design rights; and ii) unregistered design rights.

Both have pros and cons, the most obvious being that you have to pay for the former. The value in securing a registered design comes in the fact that it grants a “monopoly right” over the design for up to 25 years: if two designers in two different rooms came up with the same design independently of each other, the one with a registration would be able to pursue the other even if they were entirely innocent – they basically ‘got in their first’ (much in the same way as a patent).

That is not to say however that all is lost if a designer hasn’t registered their designs: they will also benefit from so called unregistered design rights for a period of up to 15 years. Here however, they would have to show that actual copying took place which can be hard to prove in the absence of a full-blown court case requiring disclosure.

Against this backdrop, we are seeing a rise in a number of young designers who are successfully taking to social media as a way of calling out big brands that they feel are infringing their rights; particularly given how easily such posts can go viral (although specialist advice should be taken before doing so given the potential libel issues).

Briffa comment

Here at Briffa, the team benefits from over 25 years’ experience assisting with copyright and design claims in nearly every jurisdiction in the world and we are able to assist in all aspects of the process from initial filing to enforcement. If you need any further information in this regard please do feel free to get in touch with us via

Written by Tom Synott, Associate

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