Monday, May 10, 2010

Since its adoption in 2003, very little has been written in the United States about Community Designs. As an active practitioner who files several design patent applications in the United States and in select foreign countries each year, I often wonder why this valuable tool has not been utilized more by my clients. My experience from my clients is that they are more concerned with protecting their designs in Asia, and in China in particular, and view Europe as somewhat of an afterthought. However, with the advent of Community Designs protection in Europe appears to have become more attractive.

As with rights conferred by a design patent, a Community Design protects the appearance of the product in question. The product can be any type of item, including packaging, graphic symbols and typographic typefaces. One significant benefit of Community Designs is that Community Designs are enforceable in each Member State. As of the date of this entry, there are 27 Member States. A registered Community Design can be extended up to a maximum of 25 years from the filing date provided that it is renewed by the owner. A Community Design must be published within 30 months of its filing date.

The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market touts the following advantages of registered Community Designs as compared with national protection schemes provided in Europe:

- a single legal system provides a strong and uniform protection throughout the European Union;
- a single application rather than several applications in select countries;
- a single language of filing;
- a single administrative center rather than dealing with several patent offices;
- a single file to be managed;
- a single payment;
- the possibility to file multiple applications (i.e. to include several designs in one application, such as a whole range of similar products);
- the possibility to keep the design undisclosed for up to 30 months to avoid competitors learning of it; and
- an exclusive right to use the design and to prevent any third party not having consent from using it.

What are your experiences with Community Designs? Have you found them to be an efficiently procured and effective means of protection for your clients?

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