This is a special form of copyright protecting industrial designs.
Like other forms of copyright, it arises automatically when a qualifying work is created; there is no registration required, or indeed possible (but see Registered Designs). It covers only copying of the particular design, so unless the later product reproduces a substantial part of the original design, it will not be an infringement of the design right. Being similar is not enough.
In the UK, unregistered design right lasts for ten years from when the product is first marketed, but with two provisos: (1) it cannot last for more than fifteen years from when it was first recorded in a design document or model; and (2) for the last five years of protection, third parties can reproduce the design, provided they agree to take a licence, which you cannot refuse to grant on reasonable terms – the terms can be settled by the IPO if not agreed between the parties.
For the European Union, the total term for an unregistered design right is only three years.
Other countries may not provide an equivalent right.
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