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What makes “good” UK and/or EU design registration protection for a product?

In the context of protecting the appearance of a product with a registered design application, at least as far as the UK and the EU are concerned, the scope of any resultant protection is principally defined by the content of the drawings which are used to illustrate the product within the registered design application.

One of the most common ways to present such drawings is to show the entirety of the design and/or product from these drawings in solid black and white lines, since doing so then protects the shape of the underlying product as a whole, irrespective of any colour scheme(s) implemented in the product in its real-life form.

Whilst this approach provides a reasonable level of protection for the shape of the product as a whole, note that each of the UK/EU design registration regimes allow multiple designs to be pursued in a single registered design application. This can present opportunities to additionally protect more specific parts of the product, alongside the appearance of the product as a whole.

There a number of different approaches for protecting these more specific parts of a product using additional designs. These approaches are best considered with reference to examples,

Using a car as our first example, it would not be uncommon to protect the appearance of the car with a UK/EU registered design application which includes a first design showing the entirety of the car in solid black and white lines.

Features-based approach

Beyond this first design, one option to broaden this protection is to employ a “features-based” approach, which involves pursuing a number of additional designs whose protection disclaims some of the more peripheral features of the product. Such disclaiming is usually achieved by showing the more peripheral features from the drawings of the first design in dashed lines, or by covering some of these features from these drawings with a semi-transparent coloured wash.

In the car example such peripheral features might include its wing mirrors; door handles; wheel rims; headlights; front grill; and/or the rear spoiler. These additional designs, where the more peripheral features are disclaimed, bolster the design registration protection for the car as a whole, through there being at least some designs in the UK/EU registered design application where the appearance of these more peripheral features is not determinative.

Under this features-based approach, it may well be that some of these more peripheral features have a degree of aesthetic appeal in their own right, which makes them of commercial interest to protect individually. So in some instances, additional designs may be worth including to cover the appearance of these peripheral features individually (assuming that each design meets the requirements for protection as a UK/EU design registration in its own right, in terms of the design being novel and having individual character).

Regions-based approach

A slightly different approach, which can be used alongside, or in addition to, the features-based approach, is to use the “regions-based” approach, which involves pursuing additional designs directed to smaller regions of the wider product, such as its front/top end, and/or its rear/bottom end, so as to better protect each of these regions individually.

Returning to our car example a possibility for additional designs could be to include one design which protects the basic front/bonnet end of the car, and another which protects the rear end of the car.

Implementation of the regions-based approach can force the design of a competitor’s product further away from the product depicted in the UK/EU design registration family, since it requires the third party to devise a different appearance for each of the individually protected regions of the product.

Cross sections

Related to the regions-based approach is the protection of any element of the product that may have a cross-section that is consistent and/or repeating along a length of the product.

If this is the case, and the cross-section is particularly unusual/distinctive, making the cross-section a design feature which is of commercial interest to protect in its own right, at least one additional design could be pursued under the regions-based approach, which protects a slither of the element employing the unusual/distinctive cross-section. This then better protects the slither from usage by a third party, irrespective of whether the third party intends to use either side of the protected slither.

Protecting a slither can be often achieved by including two (concentric) dot-dash-dot lines at the opposing ends of the slither region to be protected, and then showing the region of the product between these two concentric dot-dash-dot lines (that is, the region in the slither to be protected) in solid lines. The remainder of the lines from the drawings, (those outside of the slither/protected region) might then be shown in dashed lines.

Colour and surface decoration

The above approaches, which employ black and white line drawings, all focus on protecting aspects of the 3D shape of a product (or some of its individual portions, where dashed lines are employed instead of solid lines), irrespective of any colour employed in the product.

However, colour (and related aspects such as tonal contrast and surface decoration) can often represent an important aesthetic feature from a product which is worth additionally protecting to some degree.

An example might be in the case of a highlighter pen product family, where each pen from the family employs a main body portion whose colour matches the colour of the particular highlighter pen (for example, navy, purple or dark red), but where the lid of each pen is always the same in terms of colour or appearance (such as, always light grey, or always employing a distinctive pattern on the surface of the lid). In this instance, and to the extent such surface colour or details from the product are deemed of commercial and/or aesthetic importance, alongside any designs showing the product in black and white line drawing format, variants of these designs could be further included which additionally show some of these surface colour and/or details from the product.

For example, one design variant might show the lid in solid lines and with the distinctive pattern on the surface of the lid. Equally, another design might show the main body portion of the pen in a relatively dark grey, and then show the lid of the pen in a relatively lighter grey, in order to protect the tonal contrast of the pen in terms of its relatively lighter coloured (grey) lid versus its relatively darker coloured (navy, purple or dark red) main body portion.

With these additional design registrations, there are then further forms of recourse for dealing with a third party highlighter pen, which otherwise emulate some of the above colour and/or surface detailing of the pen, compared with relying on variants of design registration where these surface details are not included in the scope of protection.

It is also worth noting that for particularly striking and/or unusual surface decoration which is contemplated for use with a product(s), such as a pattern that is intended for use with a plurality of different products from a wider product family, then to the extent this surface decoration meets the requirements for protection as a UK/EU design registration in its own right (in terms of being novel, and having individual character), an additional design may be worth pursuing in the UK/EU design registration for this surface decoration in its own right, so as to protect it irrespective of what product(s) it is then used with.

A good example of surface decoration might be a newly devised tartan pattern, which could be envisaged for application in a dress design. In this case, a UK and/or EU registered design application could be pursued which employs various designs protecting (parts of) the shape of the dress, potentially also with further designs which show the (parts of) the dress with the tartan pattern on its surface. However, one further design could then be pursued which shows the basic repeating pattern of the tartan on its own. In so doing, this final design would then better protect the tartan irrespective of how it was subsequently used, which could make such a design of particular commercial interest where the tartan, for example, is envisaged for use as part of a dress; a quilt; and/or some other product.

Design costs

The number of designs which might be pursued in a given UK and/or EU design registration family will, of course, always be tempered against the predicted commercial success of the designs and their underlying product(s).

Many readers will be aware, however, that the UK and EU design registration schemes provide tremendous cost savings where multiple designs are pursued in a single application. The official fees (at the time of writing, July 2023) for pursuing a UK and/or EU registered design application can start from as follows:

Number of designs Official fees (UK registered designs) immediate publication (£) Official fees (registered community designs) immediate publication (€ )
1 50 350
10 70 1,925
15 90 2,325
20 90 2,725
30 110 3,525

Appreciably, the above official fees do assume that the designs in question are not subjected to any form of deferred and/or delayed publication, which is something that can otherwise be requested (with increased official fees) if it is desirable to keep the contents of the design registration hidden for an extended period of time.


There is no right answer as to how many designs should be pursued in a UK and/or EU registered design application to best protect the appearance of a given product.

That being said, whilst a solitary design in each territory may provide some form of protection, it is always worth considering whether additional designs might be pursued using any combination of the above approaches. Doing so can then make it that much more difficult for a third party to emulate the appearance of the product for which the design registration protection is sought.

Design protection Are you protecting your designs?
Design protection Are you protecting your designs?