We humans are visual animals. We are excited, intrigued, impressed and turned-on mostly by what we see. And this is exactly what a good design does. It stimulates us visually, it speaks to our subconscious mind, it influences our thoughts and creates an emotional connection. Ultimately, a good design makes us reach deep into our wallets for a curvy vintage car, an ergonomic chaise, a quilted leather bag, a multifaceted jewellery, etc..
Design rights (a.k.a. design patents or industrial design) protects the fundamental design aspect of an object - its outward appearance (i.e. its shapes, configurations, patterns and/or decorations). Design rights do not however protect the functionality of an object or its materials.
The protection of your design usually begins with its registration in the country/countries where your product has presence. Although in certain countries (e.g. the UK or the EU), an unregistered design is sometimes afforded some form of protection, albeit at a much reduced level. A registered design gives you the exclusive right to use your design for up to 25 years (although you may need to renew your registration every 5 years). It also makes it easier for you to take legal actions against anyone who copies your design.
In order for a design to be registered it has to be new. That means that no one outside of your company should really have seen your design before you file for its registration. In some countries, the design should also have an individual character, meaning that the design should be different from others. Also, certain countries only allow a design to be registered if it can be industrially applied onto an object (namely that it can be mass-produced).
As the requirements and procedures for designs protection vary from country to country, we recommend that you speak to us before you unveil or disclose your designs to others.