Design Protection FAQs

I have designed a device for use in an operating theatre, but have subsequently discovered that it looks identical to a product which is already for sale on the market for a different purpose. Would my device infringe any of the design rights attached to the already available product?

If the design of the existing product is registered in the UK or EU, then it is likely that using your product commercially will infringe that registered design. However, if the design of the available product is not registered and if you can show that you did not copy the design of the existing product, then you will not have infringed any unregistered design rights.

I recently got a local company to design a market-ready version of a prototype lifting device that I have been developing. They now claim that they own the rights to the design and are looking to sell the product commercially themselves. Are they within their rights to do this?

If you commissioned the company to design your market-ready product then it is you as the commissioner who owns the rights to the design, unless you have signed something to the contrary. In cases such as this, you should contact Medipex, although you should preferably do this prior to commissioning the design so that all the necessary agreements can be put in place.

A couple of years ago, I was developing a device in conjunction with a colleague who has subsequently left the trust in which we both worked. I continued to develop the device independently and last year it was put onto the market and has been moderately successful. Last month, a competing product was launched by my former colleague which had an identical design to my product, aside from some surface decoration. What rights (if any) have been infringed?

In all cases such as this, it is worth remembering that the ownership of any IP developed in the course of employment rests with the employer and that therefore your former colleague would not have had any rights in developing the product further without permission from the trust. In this case it would seem that the design of your product is protected under the unregistered design laws, so you would have to show that your design was either directly copied by your former colleague or that your designs were used as the basis for this design. Both your IP lead and Medipex should be informed of the situation.

I have written a software programme that produces an on-screen icon. Can I protect the software or the icon under design right laws?

If it is new and has individual character, the design of the icon can be protected by a UK or EU Registered Design. It will also be protected by EU Unregistered Design right. Software is not protected by design rights, but is protected by copyright (see the copyright information fact sheet for more information).

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Further information or advice

Please contact Medipex on 0113 397 0830.