However, design law is exceedingly complex, potentially covering both two and three dimensional product design. Where three dimensional articles are involved, businesses have historically needed to consider four different types of design right. Brexit has complicated matters even further.
Clients need to be aware that there are both registered and unregistered forms of design right, which provide different forms of protection and lengths of protection that range from three to 25 years.
Some product designs may also be protected by copyright and in an increasing number of design cases copyright claims are also being advanced. In some of these cases, copyright is now being used to claim protection for products that may have been designed many decades ago.
Waterfront is second-to-none when it comes to guiding clients through the legal maze in this area of law.
Where disputes arise we can use our knowledge of design rights to help our clients achieve the best commercial results. Usually, matters can be resolved without the need for litigation. Where legal proceedings are unavoidable, we have exceptional experience and expertise in litigating design right cases to a satisfactory commercial conclusion.
Our lawyers have been involved in some of the very first cases that came before the courts following the creation of the relevant rights. Waterfront has acted for parties in design cases taking place in the various lists of the High Court. This includes design proceedings brought in the Patents Court under the Shorter Trial Scheme and litigation in IPEC. Waterfront also acted for PMS in the last design case to be referred to the European Court of Justice prior to Brexit. The IPEC judgment in the PMS case remains the leading English case on when first disclosure of a design outside of the UK can destroy novelty and validity of certain forms of design right.
Intellectual property rights in designs can be owned by the designer, the designer’s employer, or the individual or company commissioning the design – depending upon the circumstances of their creation. It is therefore vital to ensure that the relevant commercial and employment contracts properly address and govern the ownership of those rights. Our non-contentious IP lawyers can also help your business get these contracts right.
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