Protecting great designs

Patents and design registration are the two legal defences your product has against plagiarists. In essence, patents protect ‘new’ and ‘inventive’ ideas, while design registration protects the look of your product, provided it is ‘new’ and ‘of individual character’.

Jan Vleck of law firm Reddie and Grose is vice-chairman of the design committee at the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA). Says Vleck: ‘Patents offer broader protection, but they are harder to get and more expensive.

‘With patents, you end up with a document that can be anything from four to hundreds of pages long. With design registration, you just send a couple of pictures, the Patent Office files them, and you get a certificate.’

Vleck says a 20-year UK patent can cost between £3,000 and £5,000, while design registration for the whole of the EU costs between £700 and £1,000. However, the costs of enforcing patents or design rights in court can be crippling. Insurance exists for litigation, but it doesn’t always cover the entire cost of going to court, as Mandy Haberman, inventor of a non-spill cup for toddlers, discovered.

‘I was assured by my broker that there would be enough money to settle three cases,’ says Haberman, who has had to defend her Anyway Up Cup against infringements on both sides of the Atlantic.

‘When it came to it, it was woefully inadequate. A couple of meetings with my lawyer and a cup of tea and it was gone.’

On the bright side, Vleck notes that it is only the borderline cases that come to court. If your case against an infringer is strong enough, a ‘stroppy letter’ from your lawyer could end your worries.

Nick Britton

Nick Britton

Nick was the Managing Editor for when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

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