Register, license and protect your designs

Our design protection department is highly rated. We have a significant reputation for helping clients build value in their business and protect their vital design assets from theft or copying.

Registered designs are a valuable tool that primarily protects the shape of your product and enable you to monetise your work. We can help register your designs, licence your rights under comprehensive contracts and ultimately aid business growth.

In addition, should you need immediate assistance in the case of an infringement, our design rights lawyers have years of experience in successfully resolving disputes for clients large and small – from multinationals to startups and even individual creators, plus everything in between.

Get in touch with our team today to discuss your design protection needs.

Client testimonial

“Briffa helped us to protect our intellectual property and design work when it was infringed by a major retailer. What we particularly liked about working with Briffa was the expectation management – we understood at every stage of the process what outcome we could realistically expect.

Having gone through a similar process in the past with another legal firm, I can say from experience that this isn’t always the case. We would unreservedly recommend Briffa to any other company facing similar issues.”

– Mark Hampshire, Design Protection Client

How can we help?

Registering a Design

Registering your designs helps safeguard your business interests with more legal protection. It’s quite a tricky process though, so we’re here to help.

In the UK, a registered design is protected for up to twenty-five years as long as the necessary renewals are undertaken every five years. In terms of the scope of registered design protection, designers can protect various aspects of their designs, such as shape, configuration, pattern, materials and both two-dimensional and three-dimensional features of a product or design.

To register a design and fully protect it legally, it must be new. Difficulties can arise where it is similar to an existing design. In legal terms, the test is whether similarities are so strong that the differences are immaterial. As you may imagine, this is not always easy to clearly determine, and many legal disputes over designs arise where businesses seek to protect previously unregistered designs. In a competitive marketplace, disputes can arise for tactical and commercial reasons, so it’s worth ensuring you have specialist legal advice from the outset.

It’s also important to flag, in the UK and EU at least, that a design can only be validly registered if the application is made within 12 months of its first public disclosure. So getting the right legal advice early on is key.

Design Rights Infringement

Whilst we always recommend registering your designs where possible, in certain circumstances you can still take action to protect your work in the event of an infringement even if you only have unregistered rights.

This is because unregistered rights are similar to copyright (but expire far more quickly), in that a level of legal protection against copying automatically arises on the creation of novel designs.

As such, since we first set out in 1995, we’ve helped hundreds of businesses across a wide variety of industries to resolve disputes in regards to their design rights – both registered and unregistered.

Our design rights lawyers offer a free, initial consultation, allowing us to review your case and advise on the best approach for pursuing legal action. We’ll outline your next steps and how we can support you through each step of the process.

We have helped furniture designers, product designers, lighting designers, fashion designers, and even computer software businesses that produce graphical user interfaces. Regardless of your business, product or industry, we can help.

Why work with Briffa?

Our design rights solicitors have extensive knowledge and understanding of design law, which we can leverage to help any business. Over the years, we have been involved in numerous leading and groundbreaking design cases, including:

  • Magmatic Limited v PMS International Group Plc (The Trunki Case, which was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court)
  • Farmers Build v Carriers
  • Parker v Tidball
  • Green Lane Designs v PMS Group
  • Teddy Smith v Next

We have helped businesses across the UK and Europe to register and protect their product designs since 1995

We offer a free consultation to discuss your design rights before any fixed fee quotes are given

We have offices in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Malta

We offer an industry-leading service with short turnaround times and business-focused advice

Frequently Asked Questions

What are design rights?

Design rights are a form of intellectual property that protects the appearance of a product against copying. There are two forms of design rights – registered and unregistered – with differing legal protections and limitations.

What’s the difference between registered and unregistered design rights?

The most significant and practical differences between registered and unregistered design rights are that with a registered design:

  • You will have a longer fixed term of protection
  • It’s irrelevant whether the person or business that copies your design is aware of your design or deliberately copies all or part of it. Registration gives you full monopoly protection, whereas with an unregistered design the position is potentially very different.
  • By registering your design you cut down on the evidence you need to present to the court in the case of an infringement, which saves on cost and reduces the issues that you need to prove. With a registered design, it is not necessary to show the design has been copied to establish infringement (whereas proving an opportunity to copy is an important issue in an unregistered design case) — this is a big advantage in any dispute making registered designs a worthwhile investment.

How long do design rights last?

The length of time design rights last depends on the type of right and the jurisdiction. For example, a registered design can be protected in the UK or the EU for up to 25 years as long as the registration is renewed every 5 years, whereas the rights for an unregistered design expire far more quickly, with some UK rights expiring after 10 years from the first sale and EU unregistered rights expiring after 3 years.

Who owns the design rights?

Determining the owner of design rights can be tricky, and it depends on context. For example, when an employee creates a design as part of their job, their employer is likely to own the design rights.

However, when a third party (like a freelancer) is instructed by a business to create a design, the design rights may stay with the third party. This means that if the instructing business wishes to gain the rights after the design is completed, it should be explicitly stated and agreed upon in a written agreement.

Case Study

We helped an independent furniture design company when the designs of their products were infringed by a major retailer in the UK.

Our client noticed the retailer was producing furniture with striking similarities to their own. This came a year after our client had pitched the retailer with a view to selling their products through the retailer. The pitch had been unsuccessful and no deal was struck.

It was clear the retailer had infringed the design rights of our client by copying their products, so we took action by sending a full cease and desist letter, to which the retailer replied denying any infringement.

However, the retailer accepted the similarities between the products were very close, and they would no longer sell their range once their stock had been depleted.

In agreement with our client, we decided this wasn’t quite enough. We agreed on a deal with the retailer, in so much that they would stop selling infringing products and they would disclose their sales data for the products.

Our client was then able to use the sales information to build a case for a business loan, allowing them to expand their operation by opening a larger workshop. They have since significantly increased production, allowing them to strike a supply deal with many large retailers, including the company that had copied their products originally.

Meet our specialist design protection solicitors

Our lovely team of intellectual property specialists are always on hand with expert advice. We’re here to bring creative solutions to the problems you’re facing, big or small. Find the key contacts for this area below, or follow the link to meet the rest of the team.

Ready to talk?

Submit your details and one of our team will be in touch shortly, usually within one working day. We’ll kick things off with a no-obligation chat where we get to know you and understand your current challenges.

Book your free consultation now

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