Community designs: the past and the future

25 October, 2022
Community designs: a world of cult designs, litigation … and new challenges
Benefits of IP
Comprehensive article on the history of community designs.

It’s the weekend and it’s time to relax: why don’t you take a stroll along the streets of your city and add some window shopping? You see a Dior boutique: on display is the iconic Lady Dior handbag. This accessory was named in honour of Lady Diana Spencer, to whom it was offered as a gift by the then Première Dame of France. Next, you see the windows of a Kartell shop with its Cindy lamps and you think a new lamp would indeed be a good idea. Finally, your niece’s birthday is just around the corner: you see a toy shop with all the Bratz dolls on display and you wonder what you should get her as a present.

What do the Lady Dior handbag, Cindy lamps and the Bratz dolls have in common? Well, they’re all registered designs in the European Union (EU)!

Design rights in the EU

Design rights are a type of intellectual property (IP) right that protect the visual appearance of a product, be it a fashion accessory, a piece of furniture, or a toy.

The requirements for protection are that the design is new and that it possesses individual character. The ‘novelty’ aspect refers to the fact that no identical design should have been disclosed before, while ‘individual character’ refers to the fact that the overall impression conveyed by the design to the informed user should differ from that conveyed by other previous designs. And when we say user, we mean a fictitious user who is particularly observant, either because of their personal experience or extensive knowledge of the sector in question.

Assuming that the requirements are met, the appearance of almost any industrial or handicraft item (with the exception of computer programs) can be protected through design rights, be it product packaging, a logo, a typeface, a get-up or part of a product, etc.

In the EU, it is possible to register a design and thus obtain longer and broader protection, but you can also rely on unregistered Community design rights. In addition, some design rights are only valid in the territory of a given country, for example, if you obtain the registration of a national design right in Italy. However, it is also possible to seek EU-wide protection through the system of registered Community designs or obtain protection in multiple territories through the Hague system.

While the protection of national design rights has been partly harmonised in the EU through the 1998 Design Directive, EU-wide design rights are governed by the 2002 Community Design Regulation (CDR). Over the past 20+ years, design law in Europe has developed significantly. The statistics provided by the EUIPO, which is responsible for registering EU-wide design rights (registered Community designs) show that the number of applications has increased year after year. Between 2013 and 2021, the growth was approximately 16%. Currently, the EUIPO registers some 85 000 designs every year.

Read the full article here.