This briefing note is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

Inside IP: Time to consider a UK registered design?
14 September 2016

Inside IP: Time to consider a UK registered design?

The UK Intellectual Property Office has published guidance on reduced fees that will come into effect for new UK design registrations (and for renewals of existing registrations) from 1 October 2016. The fee savings, which follow the launch of an electronic registration service, are significant, particularly on renewal and where there are multiple designs in a single application.

Whilst the aim is to promote the UK registered design system as a valuable and cost-effective protection regime, this comes at an interesting time for designers in the wake of the Brexit vote. In particular, for businesses that currently rely upon Unregistered Community Designs, it may be worth considering registered protection in circumstances where the UK's unregistered design right regime may not fill the gap.

the new fees from 1 october 2016


The new fees for registering a UK design are as follows:


Old fee 
(paper application)

New standard fee
(paper application)


New electronic fee

Single application

£60 for 1 design

£60 for 1 design

£50 for 1 design

Multiple application

(designs need not be related to each other)

£60 for first design

£40 for any subsequent design included in application

£60 for first design

£40 for any subsequent design included in application

£70 for up to 10 designs

£20 for up to (and including) 10 subsequent designs included in application


Relevant period

 Old fee

 New fee

Second period of 5 years



Third period of 5 years



Fourth period of 5 years



Fifth period of 5 years



If you own a design that falls for renewal on or after 1 October 2016, you should not renew this early as it will be subject to the old fee and it will not be possible to obtain a refund of any overpayment.

Benefits of a UK design registration

There are a number of benefits in obtaining registered design protection rather than relying upon unregistered rights – for example, the recently enacted provisions relating to criminal remedies for infringement of designs only apply to registered designs. Further, when it comes to infringement of a registered design, it is not necessary for the design to have been copied, as it is for infringement of an unregistered design.

The benefits of a UK registration are now particularly significant following the outcome of the Brexit vote: protection and enforcement of Registered and Unregistered Community Designs (RCDs and UCDs) will change once the UK leaves the EU. It is anticipated that there will be a process by which existing RCDs will be preserved in the UK but the details of this process (and the extent to which it will require positive actions by design owners to preserve their rights and/or will involve administrative fees) are yet to be worked out. Accordingly, until there is firm information as to how RCDs will be dealt with, where the UK is a territory of interest, a separate UK registered design application should be considered. It is also worth noting that the UK plans to ratify the Hague Convention on Industrial Designs in the next year, allowing for international applications to designate the UK.

In addition, a number of industries rely heavily on unregistered rights to protect designs and UCD is a particularly useful right. Whilst the term of protection is short (only three years), the scope of a UCD is potentially very broad: the right can cover the appearance of the whole or part of a design including lines, contours, colours, shape, texture, materials, features of ornamentation etc. Further, there is a grace period of 12 months which allows a designer to test the design before applying to register, without destroying novelty (although care has to be taken in seeking to reply on the grace period).

The UK does have its own unregistered design right (UKUDR) regime, which can apply to a design alongside a UCD. Indeed, the UK IPO has recently issued a statement about Brexit which notes: "protection for unregistered designs will continue to exist through the UK unregistered design right. We will consult designers and other users to ensure that the protection provided is fit for purpose." However, the scope of protection provided by UKUDR is different to UCD. In particular, it protects 3D aspects of a design, i.e., aspects of shape and configuration, and it is not possible to protect surface decoration.

Post-Brexit, the UCD will no longer extend to the UK, although UK based designers will still be able to rely on UCD protection in the EU, provided their designs are first disclosed in the EU, which may not be straightforward in all cases. Accordingly, there is a potential gap in protection for certain designs, which could be filled by UKRD protection (and an RCD where appropriate). It is also possible that, given the importance of unregistered design right protection in key UK design industries such as fashion, this may be seen as an opportunity to re-shape and improve the UK's unregistered design regime, including perhaps to approximate it to the EU right. 

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