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  • Writer's pictureLukas Pelcman

Exploring Role of Registered Designs in Brand Protection: A Potential Alternative to Trademarks?

I have written about this many times. A trademark is your go to tool for protecting your brand. But it's not the only option.

Did you know that a (registered) design can also play a role in protecting your brand?

Registered design, at your service!

It is true that as far as the registered designs are concerned, their primary function is about design protection. However, there are cases in which registered design can be a good option alo when it comes to brand protection.

For trademarks, the conditions for registration are quite strict. Therefore, not every sign will pass the so-called registrability test due to the lack of distinctiveness. This is further supported by the very common tendency of entrepreneurs to choose somewhat descriptive signs for their products and services.

Suitable use case?

If you use a logo for your brand that contains a very descriptive sign in relation to the products or services offered, and at the same time does not contain any distinctive graphic element that overrides the descriptiveness of the verbal element, then the trademark is unlikely to pass the examination for its registrability.

However, if a particular logo is very important to you and you still want it to be protected in some way, a registered design may be a suitable tool.

In fact, logos have their own category within the Locarno Classification. [1] Thus, it is possible to register a design for them. And since it is the design and not the meaning that is important in the registration of designs, a logo which is not eligible for registration as a trademark will normally be registrable as a design.

Alternative to trademarks? Not quite.

So while a registered design may provide at least some protection for your logo, it is still no substitute for a trademark.

The scope of protection offered by registered design relates purely to the design (likeness of the protected sign). Thus, unlike in trademark infringement cases, you will have slightly more limited options.

Whereas in trademark infringement cases, the allegedly infringing sign is usually examined from visual, phonetic and conceptual vantage point; in case of designs, you will have to make do with purely visual similarity.

Also, the term of protection for registered designs is limited to a total of 25 years (5x5 years). Trademarks, on the other hand, can be extended indefinitely.

Complementing your portfolio

Regardless, however, registered designs can still represent at least something when a trademark is out of the question for whatever reason.

Or it is possible to register both. A portfolio consisting of trademarks and registered designs will be more robust.

In addition, as is the case with trademarks, SMEs can also benefit from a subsidy from the EU SME Fund of up to 75% of the official fee of the official registration fee.

A standoff between trademark and registered design
A standoff between trademark and registered design

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