When people think of intellectual property what most often springs to mind is patents, closely followed by trade marks. There are other forms of IP though and I came upon a good example of one when looking at gadgets to do with my favourite pastime â knitting.
This is the Wool Jeanie a nifty little device that holds the ball of wool/yarn whilst you are knitting releasing the wool evenly as you knit. The yarn holder is suspended from the frame using magnets and when not in use it can be disengaged from the frame and rested on the platform below.
The Wool Jeanie is a UK registered design registered with the IPO UK and given design registration number RD6011452. The full design record can be viewed via the DesignView database upon entering the registered design number in the search box.
If you are not sure how to use the database, or if you are just interested, you can download our free IP guide A brief introduction to registered designs and registered design searching.
Registered designs protect the outward look of a product particularly the lines, contours, shape or texture, but they can also protect the material or ornamentation of the product. You cannot protect the way the design works, only the way it looks. To protect its functionality you would need to apply for a patent. For a design to be protectable it must be new and it must be unique.
A UK registered design gives the rights holder the exclusive right in the United Kingdom to make, use, sell, import and export any product embodying the design, if it is a shape, or bearing the design if it is ornamentation.
Registered designs can apply to a wide variety of products from packaging to furnishings, from clothing to jewellery and from household goods to textiles. However, registered designs do not last forever. Registered designs last a maximum of 25 years and are renewable every five years to the 25 year maximum. At the end of the 25 years, or if the renewal fees arenât paid, the registered design falls into the public domain and is there for anyone to use.
So why should a business protect its designs?
By registering your designs you:
- contribute to obtaining a return on investments made by you or your company into creating and marketing your products.
- obtain exclusive right to the registered design allowing you to prevent or, if necessary, stop others from exploiting or copying your design without your written permission.
- have the opportunity to sell or license the rights to the design to another enterprise for a fee.
- strengthen your brand.
It is worth remembering that a vast majority of businesses today are web-based and the IP registrations the company holds, or the licenses it has to use others' IP, are assets of the business which can help increase the market value of a company and its products.
Within the UK unregistered âDesign rightâ also exists and automatically protects a design for a maximum of 10 years from the end of the calendar year in which the design was first sold or for 15 years after it was created whichever is the earlier. However, design right only applies to the shape and configuration of an object.
When deciding whether or not to register your designs it is worth speaking with an intellectual property attorney. Most will offer free 30 minute one-to-one advice sessions and you can find one in your local area via their website.
So what about my Wool Jeanie? Well, it has proved to be one of the best gadgets I have bought it my many years of knitting and crocheting and I am busy spreading the word about it to all my handicraft friends and acquaintances.
Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert at the Business & IP Centre London
Maria has worked in the field of intellectual property since she joined the British Library in January 1993. She is currently the British Library Business & IP Centreâs Intellectual Property Expert, where she delivers 1-2-1 business and IP advice clinics, as well as intellectual property workshops and webinars on regular basis.
To see all upcoming workshops, webinars and events, visit our website.