(last revised February 2020)

by KATZAROV S.A., Patent & Trademark Attorneys, European Patent Attorneys, Geneva, Switzerland

General Information

The Council Regulation (EC) No. 6/2002 on the protection of Community Designs was released on January 5, 2002*. In parallel to the already recognized Community Trademark (CTM) system, now renamed European Union Trademark (EU Trade Mark) since March 23, 2016, the Community Design Regulation establishes a unitary and autonomous protection for designs on the whole European Union territory.

Protection extends to the 27 States which are members of the European Union (EU). At present, these countries are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. In addition, from May 1, 2004: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia; from January 1, 2007: Bulgaria and Romania; and lastly, from July 1, 2013: Croatia. The Community Design system also extends to the following territories which have special relationships with EU member States: Åland Islands, Martinique, Guadeloupe (included St. Barthélemy and French part of Saint-Martin), French Guiana, Réunion, Azores, Madeira, Ceuta and Melilla, Canary Islands and Gibraltar.
Remark on IP implications of the U.K.’s referendum vote of June 23, 2016 to leave the European Union: the U.K. left the EU on January 31, 2020. There is a transition period, presently expected to end on December 31, 2020 to negotiate the terms of the withdrawal and implement the changes involved. Holders of registered Community designs which are granted and published before the end of the transition period will be granted equivalent U.K. registrations automatically.

The Community design system remains autonomous in the sense that it coexists with, and/or can be superposed on equivalent national protections.

Keen to reconcile the fundamental interests of major European industry lobbies with the necessity for creators to promptly and easily secure their creations, one of the key features of the Regulation is to establish a double system of protection for, respectively, registered and unregistered Community designs. The scope of rights conferred differs depending on whether the design is registered (the holder enjoys the benefits of a filing date, corresponding official publication and all related legal measures against infringement), or unregistered (protection limited to three years as from the disclosure of the design, giving its holder the possibility to prohibit the use of copies of the original design).

Available to Non-EU (appointing a representative) as well as EU creators, the protection resulting from the Community design is in force since March 6, 2002 for unregistered Community designs, whereas the applications for registered Community designs are accepted since April 1, 2003.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), based in Alicante, Spain, handles the task of registering designs.

* Text of the European Community Design Regulation, see: Convention part of Manual, under “Regional Conventions”, European Community Design Regulation.