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The design is a registered property right with which the graphical, two-dimensional appearance of a product that is in colour or black and white or the three-dimensional appearance of a product can be protected. The impact that the correct ‘styling’ can have on sales of a product is shown in the car industry, where manufacturers completely change the external appearance of their vehicles at regular intervals. Even if no technical innovations have been made in the car itself, the modified design of the vehicle always generates a new incentive for customers to make purchases.

Thus, in particular for medium-sized enterprises which do not manufacture mass-produced goods but rather seek to respond to customers’ wishes on an individual basis, it is advisable to look more closely at the design as a property right. Given the profusion of new materials and manufacturing techniques, manufacturing in small batches may in fact also be economical. It is therefore increasingly possible for small and medium-sized enterprises to exploit market niches by using high-quality design as a competitive advantage with the aid of a registered design.

One particular feature of designs is the twelve-month grace period under Section 6 of the German Design Act (DesignG) and Article 7(2) of the Community Design Regulation (CDR). According to this rule, a design is still considered to be ‘new’ even if it has, for example, been exhibited at a trade fair and is the subject of an application by the party entitled to do so within twelve months.

Scope of application of a design: a registered design is an industrial property right which was created specially for the aesthetic design of a product. In principle, designs of any products can be protected.

Term of protection: the maximum term of protection for a design in Germany is 25 years, and that for a European design is 20 years.