What is a Registered Community Design?
A Registered Community Design (RCD) refers to the exclusive industrial design right of an intellectual property owner to use a visual design within the European Union. The visual design can be the shape, configuration or composition of a 2D or 3D object. Unique design elements may include textures, materials, colors, contours, lines as well as other visual characteristics.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) recognizes many different types of design for protection including, but not limited to packaging, composites, parts, logos, icons, fonts, web and graphic designs, and maps. Once filed, the design is protected throughout Western Europe, excluding Norway, Switzerland, Monaco and Andorra.
In order to be considered for registration, the design must be novel and unique, i.e., no other similar design is already in existence. The whole or a part of a product must bear unique design characteristics that would distinguish it from other designs on the market. These characteristics have to be easily visible to user when they are using the product.
How to Register a Community Design
A design must be registered by filing an application with the EUIPO in one of the 22 official languages of the European Union, but before filing an application, you will need:
- applicant details (company or individual)
- visual representations of your design (up to 7 photos or drawings)
- details of related or earlier applications
- the title or classification of your design
The EUIPO has provided an online checklist to help applicants gather the necessary information for their filing and to determine whether a design is suitable for RCD requirements. However, you should consult with an IP attorney to ensure that your application fulfills all requirements for a speedy registration process. A delayed registration can put your design at risk of rejection or counterfeiting.
It is important to note that, if an RCD is not the ideal option for your requirement, it is possible to register a national design in an individual country. Generally, an RCD is the preferred option since it costs less than registering a design in two countries and offers reduced rates for additional designs within the same Locarno Classification.
Protecting a Design
When an IP owner exercises their design rights, this prevents others from making, using, selling, importing and/or exporting the design without consent. These rights also protect against products of a similar design, which may be indistinguishable to an informed user. However, this means the IP owner has to monitor the marketplace and take action against those who are using the design without authorization. An IP firm is equipped to help IP owners with enforcement as it will have local resources and contacts to monitor the market and take legal action in a cost-effective manner.
It should also be noted that a declaration of invalidity can be filed by any individual, if a design is proven to have previously existed or does not have unique characteristics. For this reason, it is important to ensure that all unique characteristics are captured in the application process in order to protect a design from a dispute after registration.
What is the difference between a registered and unregistered community design?
An unregistered Community Design provides protection for designs that have been made public within the EU but have not yet been registered. The same design rights as an RCD are given for up to 3 years from publication in the Community. However, if a similar design is created independently, this would not encroach on those rights. Generally, an unregistered Community Design is used when a design has a short lifespan.
A Registered Community Design provides long-term protection with an initial 5-year term and subsequent 5-year renewal terms up to a maximum term of 25 years. As mentioned above, it protects against any use of the design within the Community. Additionally, a unique design registration number is provided to the IP owner, which they can use on products to enable a consumer to easily authenticate them.
How can an IP firm help with a Registered Community Design filing?
An experienced IP firm will be familiar with the required documentation for an RCD file. It can help you prepare suitable images to support your application, such as photos, computer drawings or hand drawings. If you have multiple designs, an IP firm can help you determine which designs can be filed within the same application, reducing your application fees.
In the event of objections to your Registered Community Design application, an IP firm can help you to address them swiftly, so your application is not stalled or left unresolved. It may also be able to fast track your application using the online tool, so you may have your design protected within just a few weeks or days.
Jacobacci & Partners has extensive experience managing large IP portfolios comprised of trademarks and patents for designs. This includes submitting filings for fashion house designs, furniture designs and medical object designs for a total of 1,500 Community models. They have supported applications across the European Community, saving businesses time and money. Contact the team today to get started with your application.
Article by: Gianluca Pulieri