The term design law goes beyond design protection in the more narrow sense of the word (previously known as industrial design (“Geschmacksmuster” in German law)) to include the entire legal instrument for protecting aesthetic designs. This includes protection for designs of any type, regardless of whether they are everyday objects, lifestyle products, or pure art. Thus, the design of a drill may be just as worthy of protection as a fashion product, electronic devices, or a two-dimensional drawing.
The regulations for protecting designs in Germany are primarily stipulated in the Design Act (DesignG) (previously known as the Industrial Design Act (Geschamcksmustergesetz)) and the regulations for protecting European community designs in the Council Regulation (EC) No 6/2002 of 12 December 2001 on Community Designs. For other countries, the respective national regulations of the design law must be complied with. In addition, designs also have the protection of copyright law as well as competition and trademark protection.
Design protection can be acquired either as a registered design or community design or under the law, e.g. as an unregistered community design. There is a difference between the duration and the scope of protection. Registered designs/industrial designs are protected for a maximum period of 25 years. The scope of protection depends, in turn, on the type of design, the specific use, and, last but not least, on your own strategy. All protection options, however, have in common that the design must be somehow special and differ from known designs.
The design of a product gives it a vision, separates it from the mass of comparable products, and ensures it will be noticed in business. Design protection therefore has a serious economic basis. The investment in the design of an object and the transformation of it into a marketable product normally only makes sense if a third party unquestionably cannot make use of this investment and thus impede or even prevent the return on investment. For designing and producing companies, the question of protecting their services/efforts from reproduction therefore can have existential meaning.
The design law ensures that the holder of a registered design or community design has the exclusive right to use it and thus the ability to effectively act against violations through claims to cease and desist, information, compensation for damages, inspection, and destruction. Seizures by customs during import and export of disputed goods are also possible.
Regular questions also arise regarding the exploitation of a design when concluding licensing contracts when the designer is not also the producer of the product or the production and sales – possibly also internationally – is being handled by another company. Furthermore, the transfer of registered designs and industrial designs is always important in this context.
Our expertise in design law
Our specialized lawyers will be happy to assist you in all legal design law issues involving (product) designs. This includes the registration of national and international protective rights, advising and representation during the conclusion of licensing and transfer contracts – including internationally – out-of-court representation of interests, and representation in design infringement proceedings, and defense against official warnings in legal proceedings due to alleged design infringements. Furthermore, we can represent the interests of the parties in cancellation and nullity proceedings before the respective patent officials and courts.