Audio Transcription of Interview on Classic FM on 24 July 2006; What is a Registered Design and How to Protect it

TONY BLEWITT:

We are talking intellectual property with the people from Spoor & Fisher, and in particular this morning Keith Brown. Welcome to Classic FM, Keith.

KEITH BROWN:

Thank you very much Tony.

TONY BLEWITT:

We are talking about the subject of a registered design and how to protect that. Now first of all what is a registered design?

KEITH BROWN:

A registered design is, in lay terms, something which one can use to protect the appearance of a product. I use the term appearance rather loosely in terms of the Registered Designs Act. In fact, the features of a design which can be protected are shape, configuration, pattern and ornamentation in the case of an aesthetic design and shape, configuration and pattern in the case of a functional design.

TONY BLEWITT:

OK, now how does registered design protection differ from other kinds of protection, for example patents and trademarks?

KEITH BROWN:

Well the easy distinction is that in the case of trademarks one may be talking about brand protection or the protection of goodwill in association with a brand. Patents on the other hand are really there to protect the technical principle underlying an invention, for instance a method of extracting gold from rock or the method by which an internal combustion engine operates. As I’ve said a registered design is there to protect the three dimensional shape or configuration of a product, or a pattern applied to that product or ornamentation applied to that product.

TONY BLEWITT:

The physical form?

KEITH BROWN:

In many cases, that’s a good way to put it.

TONY BLEWITT:

OK, as opposed to an intellectual idea or property that is just on paper by way of a drawing, sketch and so on?

KEITH BROWN:

Correct. A very good explanation of the distinction can be made with reference to something like the ball point pen you’re holding. The principle of operation of a ball point pen could be protected by means of a patent, assuming of course the principle is still new and meets the other requirements for patentability. A registered design on the other hand could be used to protect the appearance of the pen, for example its three dimensional form. If the designer of the pen felt that its form was something good enough to attract people to purchase the pen he may look to protect the form of the pen by registering the design. He must however understand that the registered design is not going to protect him against somebody else who makes a pen that operates exactly the same way but just looks different, i.e. has a different form.

TONY BLEWITT:

OK, now what sort of product designs can be protected by registered designs? Can you give some examples?

KEITH BROWN:

Well, a good example is the pen we have just spoken about.

TONY BLEWITT:

Other things.

KEITH BROWN:

Other examples might be the shape and configuration of a motor car, or the pattern that is applied to curtaining or upholstery fabric.

TONY BLEWITT:

Really?

KEITH BROWN:

Yes, many fabric designs are indeed the subject of registered design protection. Any number of other articles can likewise be the subject of registered design protection. There are however certain exceptions. For example, spare parts for technical products may in some instances not be protectable at all. On the other hand, other technical products which are not spare parts, for instance a step ladder, can be protected. If one designed a new step ladder with a different shape and configuration from existing step ladders, one would be entitled to protection by way of a registered design.

TONY BLEWITT:

OK, if people wanted to get advice on protecting something like this, what should they do?

KEITH BROWN:

Well obviously the best advice would be to see a patent attorney. Patent attorneys obviously do patent work but they also specialise in registered design work.

TONY BLEWITT:

OK.

KEITH BROWN:

Registered designs are somewhat more complex than might appear at first. Many complications can arise and I can only recommend that professional advice be taken.

TONY BLEWITT:

OK, Keith we’ll see you again next week and we’ll talk more about this.

KEITH BROWN:

Thanks, Tony. It’s been a pleasure chatting to you and I look forward to seeing you next time.

Keith Brown

SPOOR & FISHER

Date published: 2006/07/24
Author: Keith Brown

Tags: audio transcription classic fm registered design protection