Last modified:Friday 10 September 2021
The product's appearance can play a key role in the eventual choice exercised by the end consumer. It is this very important to protect a product's appearance to prevent eventual imitations and to maintain its unique and characteristic nature.
A product can be both industrial and artisanal, when it comes to, among other things, packaging, graphic symbols, typographic signs, components. A product's appearance can be created specifically based on the lines, contours, colours, shape, and texture of the materials of the product itself, or even that of the details affixed to it.
When the appearance of a product is two-dimensional (a pattern on wallpaper), it is called a design. If it is three-dimensional (the form of a computer), then it is called a model. The appearance of a product can also combine these two dimensions (the form of a porcelain tableware and the decorative motifs found on it).
To protect a design or model, it must be based on new data and an individual character:
A design shall be considered original if, on the date that you made your application (or on the priority date), no identical model ( models whose features differ only in immaterial details of your model) has been made available to the public.
A design shall be considered to have an individual character if the overall impression that it creates for the informed user differs from the overall impression created for a user by any design which is made available to the public before the filing date (or priority date).
Laws relating to designs and models grants the holder exclusive rights to the appearance of products.
Investigate first before applying
The Benelux Designs Register is the official publication space for designs or models. It contains the data and pictures of the Benelux registered designs or models that were valid on January 1, 2012, or were registered thereafter. Data relating to renewals and amendments of entries can be found via the registry. The registry contains no current applications and unpublished entries.
Models registered before January 1, 2012, can be found in the Benelux Designs Bulletin, formerly the official publication site.
Community models (European models) and international models can be found in the records of EUIPO and WIPO.
Register your design or model
There are four channels that can be used to get protection for a design or a model:
The Benelux depot ensures protection in the three Benelux countries: applications to be submitted online at the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP). You should do so only to create an account. The protection is valid for a period of five years, but can be extended four times, subject to the payment fees, giving a maximum protection of 25 years;
The Community design ensures protection in all countries of the European Union. This type of design-right is acquired through registration with the Intellectual Property Office of the European Union (EUIPO). The Community Design provides protection for a period of five years, provided that the artifacts are registered. The protection can be extended four times, subject to the payment fees, giving a maximum protection of 25 years;
The international application, allows you, through a unique process, to get protection in a number of countries that can be freely selected: applications must be submitted to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. The duration of the protection is dependent on the country.
National model: You can also choose to make national applications in other countries. For countries that are not members of international conventions for registration of designs, this is the only option. You will need to study the governing rules in the applicable country to protect your models. Moreover, this is often a more expensive option, especially because more countries are involved in the process. Fortunately, an ever-increasing number of countries provide protection via an international model or Community design.
The registration authorities do not have the authority to determine whether the designs or models are valid. They will (only) check that the designs do not clash with public order and morality.
As an applicant, it is your responsibility to judge whether the protection conditions are met. Otherwise, you run the risk of having your filing cancelled (a posteriori). It is, therefore, advisable to consult registers for designs and models beforehand.