Blog: article page

What is the difference between registered and unregistered designs?

What is the difference between registered and unregistered designs?

The purpose of protecting your design is to stop others from copying it or encroaching too closely with their own designs. The protection of your design will be based on its aesthetic features including:

  • The appearance
  • The physical shape
  • The configuration
  • The decoration

There are two types of design protection that exist. These are: Registered Design Protection and Design Right Protection.

A registered design right gives you complete control over the design, whereas an unregistered right only gives you the ability to prevent others from copying your design. This means that the scope of protection of an unregistered design right is lower than that of a registered design. Take a look at the table below to determine which type of protection you might need.

  Registered Design Protection Unregistered Design Protection
How do I protect my design? You will need to submit an application prior to your design coming onto the market No formal registration procedure is required (or possible) it comes into existence automatically upon creation of the relevant design
What type of protection will I have? Full protection – The overall appearance of the design, excluding features dictated by technical function Exclusive rights against anyone copying your design which includes both functional and aesthetic aspects
How long will I be protected for? 25 years protection from the date of filing, at most 15 years protection, or 10 years from when the product is first put on sale – whichever is the shortest
Do I need to renew? Yes, every 5 years up to the maximum of 25 years No
Originality Design must be new, for example, not identical to any existing designs and have individual character Must be original, for example, not copied from any existing designs
Protection rights There is no need to prove your design was directly copied in order to enforce rights You must prove your design was directly copied in order to enforce rights, and keep all records and documentation from when you created the design, to prove that you are the owner
What about protection in other countries? You can extend your UK protection to certain countries Protection is only available in a very limited number of countries
Can I sell the design? Yes, by selling the registration or granting a licence Yes, by selling the design right or granting a licence


Obtaining Registered Design Protection demands an application that is thorough, organised and filed in advance of a design coming onto the market. This is one of the many reasons why speaking to an Intellectual Property expert or Patent Attorney is strongly advised.

Michael Downing, Patent Attorney at Downing IP, strongly advises on getting full protection “Registered designs are a much-overlooked form of intellectual property, despite the fact that they are relatively cheap and easy to obtain and last even longer than a patent. They can be powerful rights on their own, or a very good complementary form of protection to a registered trade mark (if that trade mark has a graphic element) or a patent."

Here is a recap of some of the important benefits of registering your design:

  • Protects any aspect of your design, e.g. both the product’s shape and decoration
  • Gives you exclusive rights to use it for up to 25 years
  • Ensures legal action against infringement and copying easier to handle

For confidential, professional advice regarding Trademarks, Patents or Design Protection please contact us on 01494 422626 or email

More posts



Archive by Date

  Please sign up to our newsletter