The Registered Designs Regulations 2001 came into effect on 9 December 2001, and have introduced various amendments to the Registered Designs Act 1949 in the UK. The Regulations bring the UK Act into line with EC Directive 98/71/EC, which attempts to harmonise the essential features of the national laws relating to the protection of designs by registration in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The EC Directive ( and so the Registered Designs Regulations 2001 in the UK) have brought about changes which predominantly affect the criteria for enabling registration of a design. The main changes are noted briefly below, but these comments are not intended to be a definitive guide on the revised provisions. For more information on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

What can be registered?

A wider definition of the 'designs' which can be registered has now been introduced. Thus, 'designs' no longer need to be aesthetically appealing in order to be registrable. Also, parts of products (e.g. the lid of a teapot) can be registered alone, so long as they are visible in the finished product. However, a design will only be registrable if it has 'individual character' - this is a new requirement in the UK.

Absolute Novelty requirement

A requirement of absolute (not just local) novelty now exists.

Industrial application no longer required

The 'design' may now be a single design, so need not be applied to a minimum of 50 items as was previously required.

Design no longer dependent on product to which it is applied

It is now the design itself which is registrable, and so liable to be infringed - previously, registration afforded protection to the design as applied to a particular product, so infringement would only occur if that design was used in conjunction with the particular product in respect of which it was registered.

12 month Grace Period

A new 12 month grace period has been introduced, which means that a designer can freely disclose his design so long as an application for registration of the design is filed within 12 months of the date of first disclosure.

Term of Protection

In respect of 'pre-1989 registrations' - i.e. designs filed before 1 August 1989 and still in effect or capable of being treated as such when the Regulations came into force in the UK - a term of protection of 25 years is now accorded to registered designs. Therefore, designs which previously had a 15 year term now have this term extended to 25 years from the filing date. However, a registration which has expired under the old terms of the Act, before the new Regulations came into force, cannot be revived by virtue of this provision.

Renewal Payments

Renewal fees are still due at five yearly intervals, but they are now calculated from the filing date, rather than the priority date, of the application. In effect, there will therefore be up to an additional 6 months of protection for designs with priority claim(s), compared with the situation previously.