Designs are everywhere around us, from the chair on which we sit, to the shape of the bottle of our favorite soda. They are an integral part of innovation and economic growth and contribute to the attractiveness of a product for the consumers. For a few years now, designs are definitively on the rise with the development of 3D-printing and similar technologies.

That is the reason why, after a welcome reform of EU trademark law in 2015, the European Commission decided to launch, on 18 December 2018, a public consultation regarding the future of design law in the European Union.

The current regime was put into place with the adoption, in 1998 and 2001, of the Design Directive and Regulation, bringing a long awaited harmonization on the EU level. The new EU consultation aims to assess the implementation of this legal framework in the Member States, its adequacy with the current business needs and to gather views and opinions on a possible reform while ensuring consistency with the new trademark legislation.

Two key areas would be the need to harmonize national practices regarding the protection of spare parts by design law and the assessment of legal means available to fight counterfeiting.

As a reminder, designs and trademarks are intellectual property rights, offering (limited) monopoly to their holder. If designs protect the appearance of a product, trademarks aim to protect a sign used to distinguish a company’s products and services on the market.

Both rights are subject to registration but a specific (lower) protection is also available for unregistered designs.

Opting for a European registration means that you will be granted  a unitary protection across the EU through a unitary title and a single procedure. To benefit from this protection, a design must be new (i.e. it does not already exist on the market before the filing date) and possess an individual character (i.e. it must not be common place).

As with trademark rights, the various possibilities offered by design rights allow for tailor-made solutions for your company. Whether you choose for a national (Benelux), European or international registration, we can determine with you the strategy corresponding to your current and future needs.

The EU consultation is accessible here until 31 March 2019 and will lead to the drafting of a report by the Commission. The next steps remain uncertain but exciting time are definitely ahead!