European Community Designs Protect Industrial Designs That May Not Be Protected in the US and Elsewhere

European Council Regulation no. 6/2002 on community designs came into force on 6th March 2002, and provides design protection for types of industrial designs which might not necessarily be protectable in other jurisdictions, such as the US. Both registered and unregistered design protection exists and covers all countries which are EC member states. A registered design confers on the holder an exclusive right to use the design and prevent third parties from doing so, with no requirement to prove copying. Unlike a registered design, an unregistered design right does not confer an exclusive right on the holder because copying must be proven for infringement to be found.

The registration system is administered by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), acting in its capacity as the trademarks and designs registration office of the European Union. OHIM’s website indicates that, to date, it has received applications for and registered around 460,000 designs and that the number processed annually is increasing at a rate of about 75,000 per year.

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