By applying for a Community design, the applicant can secure protection in the entire area of the European Union with a single application. The registration authority is the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante in Spain.
The cost of filing a Community design application is considerably lower than those of separate national applications. Community design applications will only be examined in terms of technicalities, which allows for short processing times, usually from one to three months. Because Community designs are not examined in terms of novelty or obstacles to registration, it is advisable to consider using design watch services to monitor competitors.
Community designs are indivisible by nature, which means that protection is cancelled in the entire European Union if the design is rendered invalid in one member state. This should be taken into consideration when selecting the target countries.
Content of a design right
A design right prevents all other parties from making use of the registered design without the holder’s permission. Making use of the design is considered to include the manufacture, marketing, import and export of products as well as the storing of products for these purposes.
Requirements for design registration
Design registrations no longer require absolute novelty from the product. Design rights now include what is known as the grace period, which lasts for 12 months. In practice, this means that the product may be launched 12 months before filing the design right application, and it may also be marketed. If the applicant intends to use the grace period, the launching of the product should be documented as carefully as possible, in case the exact time of the launch needs to be verified later. In practice, however, it is advisable to file the design right application before launching the product.
2. Individual character
In order to be protected, a design must have individual character. This will be evaluated based on the overall impression, which must differ from previously known designs. When evaluating the individual character of a design, the nature of the product will also be considered, as will the industry to which the product is related and the degree of creative freedom the designer has applied in designing the product. For this reason, the evaluation of individual character and distinctions between designs varies by product and industry.
Validity of designs
A Community design is valid for five years from the day of filing the application. It can be renewed four times for a period of five years each time. The maximum term of protection is 25 years.