Finland broadens the scope of design protection

Finland

The Finnish Design Rights Act has been amended to implement the EU Design Rights Directive. Design protection may now be extended to:

  • a part of a product that cannot be disconnected (eg, bottleneck). Under the previous rules, only separable parts were protected;

  • a product composed of multiple replaceable components, permitting the disassembly and reassembly of the product (called a 'complex product'); and

  • parts of such a complex product, as long as they are visible during the normal use of the product.

Design protection may not be extended to:

  • physical features that are solely dictated by technical function (eg, the round form of car tyres);

  • computer programs (although icons and menus may be protected as 'graphical products'); or

  • features that must be reproduced in their exact dimensions in order to be mechanically compatible with another product. The purpose of this 'must-fit' clause is to prevent a manufacturer from gaining a monopoly by registering spare parts that are restricted to a certain form. An exception to this is the design right protection of module systems (eg, Lego blocks).

The new provisions also stipulate that a design must be novel and possess individual character to be protected. A design is 'novel' if (i) no similar design is in the public domain, and (ii) it has features that differ materially from state-of-the-art designs. A design has 'individual character' if the overall impression that it produces on the well-informed user differs from the overall impression produced by previously known designs. This assessment by 'a well-informed user' is new to Finnish design legislation and may broaden the scope of design protection. (Previously, design protection covered only the same or similar goods.)

The term of the design protection is extended from 15 to 25 years, running in five-year periods subject to renewal of registration.

Finally, provisions on public disclosure limit a design's registrability and correspond to the rules in the EU directive.

Rainer Hilli and Jenni Kyntölä, Roschier Holmberg Attorneys Ltd, Helsinki

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