Issue 35 | November 1, 2002
New European Community Design Protection
 The European Community recently enacted a new Community Design Regulation (which is akin to a U.S. Design Patent) to protect designs that are "novel" and have "individual character." The regulation offers distinct protections in terms of scope and length of protection, depending upon whether the design is registered (council regulation (EC) No 6/2002). As yet, no formal procedures have been implemented for registering designs,such that only unregistered designs are currently protected.

Starting in 2003, Community Designs may be registered with the Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante, Spain. The preliminary official fee for the registration of a Community Design for one model is about 350 Euros. Notably, the fees currently anticipated for the EC as a whole are about the same as currently charged by some individual member countries alone, making the Community Design a relative bargain.

The Community Design Regulation provides a unitary design protection for all fifteen member states of the European Community. However, it does not replace national design law but rather provides parallel protection . "Novelty" is established if an identical design has not been available to the relevant public in the EU. "Individual character" of a model or design is evaluated based on the overall impression of the design on the informed user. The overall impression must differ from the overall impression of a design already known by the public.

A registered Community Design has a maximum protection term of 25 years and confers the exclusive right of use to the registered owner. An unregistered Community Design is protected for a period of three years beginning with the first date of disclosure to the public within the European Union. The owner of an unregistered Community Design can only prevent the copying of his design.

If you have any questions about the registration procedures, length of time for registration, scope of examination, or would like a detailed schedule of fees, please feel free to contact the authors.

Matthias Schaefer, a European Patent & Trademark Attorney, can be reached at m.w.schaefer@patent-trademark.de. Grantland Drutchas, a founding partner of McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff, can be reached at drutchas@mbhb.com. The information contained in this email is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent legal advice. Neither the APLF nor the author intends to create an attorney client relationship by providing this information to you through this message.