Design is an important aspect for lots of things - after all, you want things to look nice. You can make your product look attractive using a distinctive design. Whether it is a consumer product such as a kettle, coffee machine, table or chair, or a more complex industrial product, it is worth thinking about protecting the design.
Irrespective of whether it involves a single design - or infinite variations - when filing a design registration you can always choose between a single or multiple design registration. But which is the best option in your particular case? In this blog, I explain some of the differences and advantages and disadvantages of single and multiple design registration.
Single design registration
In the case of a design it is the design views filed that determine the requested protection. You can use drawings, photos and other images to illustrate the design you want to protect. A single design registration always relates to one specific design. However, it is possible to file different views of the same design.
Each view must be of the same design. Suppose you want to protect the design of a table with unique legs. then you cannot file a view with four round legs and one with four square legs.
Advantage of a single design registration
Are you protected when a copycat markets a product that differs slightly from your single design registration or does the protection only work for exact copies?
No worries, any infringement assessment will be based on the overall impression of your design and the extent to which it differs from existing designs. If the counterfeit product looks a lot more like your design than all other known designs, the copied product will be able to create the same overall impression despite the minor differences. In all likelihood the counterfeit product will then fall within the scope of the single design registration. A single design registration can therefore provide good protection - at a small cost compared to a patent.
Disadvantage of a single design registration
So although the protection of a single design registration can be broader than what is visible in the views, in basic terms all aspects shown in the views help determine the protection. In the case of a highly distinctive design, this is an advantage: for example if all the tables in the world were round and you have registered a square one.
For less distinctive designs this is somewhat more subtle. This is because the design to be registered needs to be novel and have its own specific features compared to the known design. As a result, it may be necessary to show many details in the views. These all affect the overall impression of the design. However, all these details will limit the scope and leave room for competitors to adapt certain details.
Multiple design registration
A multiple design registration has the advantage that you can file multiple designs to cleverly show or not show certain aspects. This allows you to get the broadest possible protection.
This is interesting, for example, when several variants of your design are possible. When your table sets itself apart by having two types of legs for example, such as A- or U-shaped ones. You can then request protection for both designs, highlighting a different variant in each.
A second option is to file the multiple design in layers, so to speak. This can be achieved, for example, by structuring the design registration like a patent application, with different variants that show your design from generic to specific. Thus, the designs can have a more specific scope each time, like the claims of a patent application. The successive designs are then not so much a completely different version or design, but different versions of your design in levels of abstraction.
Advantage of a multiple design registration
By cleverly showing or not showing certain aspects in the multiple design registration, a multiple design registration really makes it possible to apply for the broadest possible protection. Moreover, this protection can be a lot stronger, as any infringer will runs the risk of infringing not just one but several design registrations.
Disadvantage of a multiple design registration
Although the costs of a multiple design registration are higher overall, the costs per design are a lot lower. It nevertheless pays to think about the method of filing. For a company like Apple, which sometimes files dozens of variants in one design, registering 20 or 30 design variants is not a big deal. In practice such a filing is not always very feasible or useful. The best strategy therefore depends on the case in question. We would be happy to provide you with appropriate advice for your particular situation.
Getting your design registration right needs careful consideration. Which variants do you want to protect? How broad should the protection be - and is it possible? Is a single or multiple design registration the right option for you? And what aspects are you going to show?
The strategy furthermore very much depends on the countries in which you want protection as the rules for protection vary from country to country. For example, a multiple design registration in the US and China has different requirements than one in the EU.
Avoid an unnecessary slip-up and get proper advice before filing an application likely to succeed for the best protection of your design.
If you want help filing your design application or advice on how best to do so, then get in touch with us. We are here to help you!