What is a registered design?

A registered design is a piece of intellectual property intended to protect aesthetic innovation, i.e. the appearance of a product. They have little to do with the underlying concept or utility of a product, and much more relevance to the protection of the design effort that goes into the outward appearance of your product (or parts of it).  If one of the reasons a customer will buy your product is the way it looks, then a registered design should be considered to protect it.


What is registrable as a design?

A registered design can be obtained for the shape and configuration of a product (or parts of it) and/or the surface pattern or ornament applied to it. It could be anything from a new design for a stapler, to a new fabric or wallpaper that you have designed.


A valid registered design cannot be solely dictated by the function of the product. This means that there must have been some design freedom in how it looks. Elements whose appearance is dictated solely by its function tend to be excluded from the protection. Otherwise, the scope for obtaining registered designs is virtually limitless, and a growing area in this regard is graphical user interfaces. With the ever increasing number of apps and consoles being developed, the need and desire to protect distinctive graphical user interfaces has grown, and the design laws of many territories, including the UK, EU, USA and China, allow for the registration of GUIs.


This means, as an example, if it could be important to your business to ensure that a third party does not try and pass their own app or webapp off as yours by using a very similar GUI to try and ‘fool’ potential customers into thinking it’s yours, then registered design protection could be valuable.

Is it worth it?

It is much easier and simpler (and cheaper) to protect your product by registered design. If a reasonable amount of effort has gone into the way it looks, or the way it looks will (or does) contribute in some way to the reason why your customers will (or do) buy it, then it is most definitely worth considering.


Another good reason to apply for registered design protection, even if you are also filing a patent application, is that the registered design will be granted far more quickly than a patent (in the UK and EU, it is often a matter of weeks). This means you can very quickly secure registered intellectual property protection that can, if needed, be used to stop direct copies of your product from entering the country using IPR border control and customs provisions.


This can be really powerful if your product is, for example, likely to be the subject of cheap, sub-standard copies that could, not only affect your market share, but also damage your brand and reputation.

What markets do designs cover?

Like patents, designs are territorial, so if you want design protection in any country, then a design application process needs to be undergone in that country. Again, like patents, the normal process is to file a UK design application first, and then you have six (rather than twelve) months to file any corresponding overseas applications for registration.


In some territories, including the UK, EU and USA, there is a so-called ‘grace period’, which allows you twelve months within which to file a valid design application after you have disclosed the design to the public. However, a word of warning: this does not apply in other countries, such as, for example, China. This means that unless you file your UK design application before the design is disclosed to the public, you will not be able to file a valid design application elsewhere in the world unless that country/territory also provides for the twelve month grace period.

How can we help?

If you are:

  • An entrepreneur or business owner who has developed or designed something where the appearance of at least part of it is likely to contribute to the reason(s) why customers will come to you instead of your nearest competitors
  • You are a business owner planning to use this type of innovation and design to scale-up and expand your market share
  • An owner or manager of an established innovative business with an existing IP portfolio looking to streamline and simplify your IP strategy and management to fit in with your commercial goals

Then we can:

  • Strachan IP

    Explore with you as to whether or not design protection could enhance your commercial advantage by enabling you to stop your competitors from being able to commercialise something that has the same (or a very similar) outward appearance to your product(s).

  • Strachan IP

    Support and guide you through the whole process of applying for design protection in the UK and anywhere else worldwide.

  • Strachan IP

    Help you to manage any existing designs and design applications you may have. We will ensure that they are properly matched to your commercial activity and properly protecting your commercial interests. We will also help you to streamline and simplify your IP management and strategy, to help save time and costs, whilst supporting you in building your IP portfolio along with your business.

  • Strachan IP

    Find out if something you want to do might infringe someone else’s design rights, and provide advice.

  • Strachan IP

    Advise on third party commercial activity, and on possible infringement of your IP rights.