Watch out, Copycats: why Design Protection is so important

Published On: 01.June.2022Categories: Legal, Start-up & Foundation2 min read
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Christina Schröder writes about legal topics for the Love & Law Blog at Recht 24/7.

A lot of time passes before a product is finished and costs are incurred. It is all the more annoying if the design is copied shortly after publication and the creative work is appropriated free of charge. Design protection is the best way to prevent this.

Furniture, vehicles or packaging: Everyday objects have an external appearance, their design. It often takes many weeks of hard work from the initial idea to the finished product. The first draft, the customer’s change requests, the final implementation and finally the handover – all of this costs time and money. Two major reasons for imitators to copy an already published design and thus gain a not inconsiderable competitive advantage.

Protect your product design: With a registration at the DPMA

To protect your product design in the best possible way, you can register it with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA). This process costs around 60 euros if you apply electronically. Your product design is then protected in Germany for 5 years. Design protection can be extended for up to 25 years by paying a maintenance fee.

But what exactly is protected?

Essential elements of the external appearance, in particular

  • Contours & lines
  • Design & equipment
  • Materials & surface structure
  • Color scheme, typography & graphic symbols

However, word and text elements, graphics and sounds cannot be protected as a design. You have to register a trade mark for this.

These are the advantages of a DPMA registration

Registration with the DPMA gives you far-reaching rights. This is referred to as a “monopoly right”. This means that you alone have the right to use your design. In addition, you can prohibit others from using your design in the manufacture, sale or import and export of products.

How does registration work in detail?

You submit a design application directly to the DPMA – either via the DPMA website or by post. A fully completed application for design registration, a reproduction of your design suitable for publication (e.g. photos, videos or graphics) and an indication of the Locarno class are required. You can find out exactly what this is here.

Do I need a lawyer?

It is advisable to register the design with a lawyer to save time and money. Because: If it turns out afterwards – e.g. when used by a third party – that your design is not new or has no individual character, you as the designer lose the sole rights of use and exploitation. For this reason, it is advisable to place the DPMA application in experienced hands.

We at Recht 24/7 are happy to assist you. As part of our design application process, we will discuss with you the best way to register your design with the DPMA in a legally secure manner.