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How to Protect Designs?

In general, designs are protected through an application filed with the national or regional intellectual property (IP) office. If they comply with the applicable requirements, the IP Office will grant protection to the design.

(Image: Getty Images/sorbetto)

Requirements for protection

In general, to be protected, a design must:

    • be independently created by the designer
    • be "new"– i.e., no identical design has previously been made available to the public and/or
    • be original – the design is not a copy or imitation of an existing design.

Costs of protecting designs

The costs of design protection vary significantly from country to country and may include:

  • Application/registration fee (to be paid to the IP office). These fees depend notably on the number of designs applied for.
  • Costs associated with the services of an IP agent. This may be a requirement of the IP office.
  • Payment of renewal fees. These fees maintain the exclusive right over a design and are usually paid on a five-year basis.

The relevant national or regional IP office will be able to give you details on their fee structure. Consult our list of national and regional IP offices.

The design protection process

A design application has to be filed (and paid for) in a national or regional IP office. In general, the protection process follows these steps:

1. Application

2. Examination

3. Grant of protection

Obtaining design protection abroad: three routes

Designs are territorial rights – they are only protected in the countries or regions where protection is sought and obtained.

National route

Apply to the national IP office of each country in which you are seeking protection by filing the corresponding application in the required language and paying the required fees.

Regional route

If you want protection in several countries, which are members of an intergovernmental organization that protects designs in its territory, you can file a single application with the relevant regional IP office.

International route

WIPO's Hague System significantly simplifies the process for simultaneously seeking protection in more than 90 countries. Rather than filing national applications in many languages, the Hague System enables you to file a single application, in just one language.