Unregistered Community Designs

Jane Lambert
27 May 2010

Designs that could have been registered as registered Community designs are protected automatically from copying throughout the European Union for up to 3 years from the date upon which they are first made available to the public as unregistered Community designs.   The requirements for subsistence are the same as for registration, namely novelty and individual character which are discussed in more detail on the Registered Designs page.

The main differences between registered and unregistered Community designs are as follows:

  • an unregistered Community design is infringed by making, offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting or using a product in which the unregistered Community design is incorporated or to which it is applied that results from copying, or by stocking such a copy for those purposes;
  • an unregistered Community design subsists for 3 years whereas a registered design can be registered for up to 25 years; and
  • claims for unregistered Community design infringement can be brought in the Intellectual Property List of the Chancery Division and in the Birmingham, Bristol, Caernarfon, Cardiff, Central London, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Mold, Newcastle and Preston County Courts whereas claims for registered Community design infringement must be brought in the Patents or Patents County Court.

Unregistered Community designs are intended to assist industries that produce products with very short shelf lives such as fashion garments and accessories, toys, novelties and mobile phones.