Designs play an important but often neglected part in our lives. As well as influencing the appearance of the clothes we wear, the shape of the chairs we sit in and the surfboards we ride, design also influences the decisions we make as consumers: why it is we choose one toothbrush over another. The practice of design covers a wide variety of domains. These range from industrial design, urban planning, graphic design and stage design through to costume design, fashion design, product design and packaging design.
Not surprisingly, intellectual property protection plays an important role in regulating the creation and use of designs. Over time a number of different areas of intellectual property, such as trademarks and passing off, have been used to protect designs. There are, however, areas of intellectual property law, which are more commonly used to protect designs: the registered design system established by the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property (marks and designs) of February 25, 2005, copyright protection provided by the Law of June 30, 1994, on Copyright and Neighbouring Rights, and the ‘unregistered design right’ protection laid down by Council Regulation (EC) No 6/2002 of 12 December 2001 on Community designs. Depending on the case at hand the appropriate protection regime is to be relied on.
Our firm looks after divergent cases related to design rights. For instance, assistance and advice is offered during the registration and further follow-up thereof. In addition our firm is consulted about the enforcement of rights, including legal disputes, and on the drafting and negotiation of, inter alia, production and licence agreements. Since 2010 we have also been the designated law firm of the Union of Designers in Belgium (UDB), the only recognised national professional association of interior architects, interior designers, graphic designers and product developers.
To enforce design rights, e.g. in case of counterfeiting (depending on the context also referred to as ‘plagiarism’ or ‘piracy’) or infringement of distribution rights, the most appropriate legal proceedings are, where required, instituted and/or the customs authorities are involved in order to block the infringing products. Each and every specific situation requires an appropriate strategy.