Community design to become operational in 2003

European Union

The European Commission has adopted a regulation allowing the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) to start registering Community designs early next year. The regulation sets out registration, cancellation and appeals procedures.

The Community design was created by Council Regulation 6/2002 in order to provide protection in each of the EU member states and, in the case of registered designs, to provide this protection with one registration.

The regulation defines a 'design' as "the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features or, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation." In other words, protection is granted to the appearance of a product, its parts or its packaging.

Designs meeting the requirements of 'novelty' and 'individual character' already benefit from three years' protection as unregistered Community designs, starting from the date on which the design is made available to the public in one or more EU member states.

By early 2003 designers will also be able to either register their Community design with the OHIM in Alicante, Spain or with the competent national authority of an EU member state. Upon registration, the minimum term of protection will be five years from the filing date of the application and the maximum term will be 25 years (ie, four additional terms of five years).

While the unregistered design is protected only against bad-faith copying, the new registered design will confer on its holder the exclusive right to use it and to prevent any third party from using it without his/her consent.

Michel Draps, Altius, Brussels

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