A registered community design (“RCD”) gives you the exclusive right to use your design and prevent others from making, offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting or using any product where the design is incorporated or applied to in the European Union (“EU”). An RCD is the EU’s equivalent to the U.S. design patent. You apply with one application, or multiple applications with an unlimited number of designs. All the designs are in the same Locarno class. A U.S. citizen can file an RCD if they have an appointed representative over in the EU. RCDs last for 25 years, but have to be renewed in blocks of five years.
What Can Be Protected
Designs: the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from its features.
Products: Parts assembled into a complex product; Packaging; Get-up; Graphic symbols; and Typographic typefaces.
However, RCDs do not apply to natural product, mere words and sequences of letters without figurative elements, ideas, functions, smells and fragrances, music and sounds, which all do not constitute the appearance of a product and therefore do not comply with the definition of a design.
AN RCD has the same basic requirements of a U.S. Design Patent such as it needs to be novel, and have individual character. However, you do not receive any protection for components parts of complex products which are not visible during normal use; design which are solely dictated by the technical function of the product; designs that make interconnections; and designs contrary to public policy and accepted principle of morality.
The novelty requirement is similar to that of a design patent where there can be no identical design disclosed to the public “where these events could not reasonably have become known in the normal course of business to the circles specialised in the sector concerned, operating within the Community.” Once disclosed in the community there is a one year grace period. The design must have its own character meaning that it must be different from the overall impression on the “informed user” from an earlier design disclosed.
Scope of Protection
The scope of protection an RCD offers is that it will prevent any design producing the same overall impression on the “informed user.” Article 10 of the Community Design Regulation defines the Scope of Protection:
1. The scope of the protection conferred by a Community design shall include any design which does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression.
2. In assessing the scope of protection, the degree of freedom of the designer in developing his design shall be taken into consideration.
An RCD can be a great way to protect your design in the EU. If you plan on selling your product anywhere in the EU and don’t want to spend the money of a PCT application for the functionality of your product, and can live with only getting the look protected then an RCD is a great alternative, and cost effective way to protect your product.