Patent or Registered Design

Innovators are often faced with the question – will a patent or a registered design provide the best form of protection for my new product?

Registered designs are often viewed as the poor cousins of patents, and therefore may be seen to have little value.  But this is not always the case.  Registered design rights are relatively quick and cheap to obtain in comparison to patents.  Within months you can have your design registered at the Patent Office.  This gives you an enforceable form of intellectual property right even before your competitors have had a chance to produce their first ‘knock-off’ copies.  And as soon as you do spot any copies in the market, a timely interim injunction can be used to stop your competitor in their tracks!

A design registration number marked on your products will provide a very real deterrent to many of your would-be competitors.

Registered designs are not all gloss however, they do have their limitations.  The main limitation of a registered design is the scope of protection it provides.  While patents can be used to stop competitors making or selling products that simply incorporate your inventive concept (irrespective of the form of their product), a registered design can only be used to stop others making or selling a product that has a very similar form or appearance to the design that you have registered.  Registered designs are only intended to protect the visual aspects of a product – they are intended to protect the time and effort that you have put into making your product look great.

Therefore, if you have just invested a considerable amount of time or money to create a profession or appealing ‘look’ for your product, a registered design is just the ticket to protect that investment.

A registered design is obtained by filing a set of views of your new design, along with a suitable “Statement of Novelty” which can be used to identify a particular part or feature of your product which incorporates the novel design that you wish to protect.  The scope of the registered design is defined by the drawings.

In comparison, the scope of protection provided by a patent can be much broader, the scope is determined by the wording used in a set of patent claims.  While your patent claims must define the novel and inventive concept of your product, the claims can be drafted using relatively broad terms.  For this reason, patents can be used to stop a competitor from making or selling a product that may look completely different when compared to your product – the competing product will still infringe your patent rights if it employs the inventive concept defined within your patent claims.

In conclusion, never overlook the merits of a registered design, but you should only consider a registered design if a novel feature of your product is its appearance.  A patent will often provide the most useful form of protection.  But when the argument for a registered design or a patent is not that clear either way, apply for both.  A patent in combination with a registered design can provide a very useful hedge of protection.