Protecting Designs after Brexit

November 30, 2020

How do designers protect their designs and how will this be affected by Brexit? We provide an overview.

Background to design rights in Europe and UK

A design right can protect the whole or a part of a product. Some design rights can protect 3D products, packaging, graphic symbols, typeface, or even graphical user interfaces.

An unregistered design right is created automatically when a design is first disclosed/created, and protects some types of designs against copying.

A registered design is entered onto a register, to protect against designs giving the ‘same overall impression’ without needing to prove copying.

UK Registered and Unregistered Designs cover the UK, and EU ‘Community’ Registered and Unregistered Designs cover the EU.


The UK has left the EU and is in a transition period at the time of writing. From 1 January 2021, the transition period ends and design law changes will come into effect. A deal is yet to be ratified so the law changes are not yet final.

After the transition period, some strategies can stay the same and others will need to change, as summarised below.

I have existing design rights

EU Registered Designs - automatically split into EU and UK counterparts, which have to be renewed separately. If we are responsible for your renewals, we will update our files and notify you of any upcoming renewals.

UK Registered Designs - We can continue to manage UK registrations.

Unregistered Designs - EU designs will be automatically split into EU and UK counterparts.

I want to secure new Design rights

EU Registered Designs – we are pleased to be able to retain access to the EU via an international registration system called the Hague system. Therefore, high costs, complexity and disruption can be avoided.

UK Registered Designs – EU applicants may no longer have direct access but we can secure UK registered designs on their behalf. Qualifying applicants may be able to use the Hague system.

Unregistered Designs – A company first revealing its product in an EU country can secure EU protection but UK protection may be unobtainable. The opposite is true for a company first revealing its products in the UK. This was not previously the case. The risks can be reduced by a careful product launch strategy. If this is relevant to you, get in touch to discuss strategy.

The above article highlights some key changes but is of a general nature. If you would like advice about your specific design, we can help. For example, the law changes may also affect pending design applications, licences, assignments, the jurisdiction of courts, and several other areas.