What are registered designs?

Registered Designs are for the eye appeal of an object. They are applied for at The Intellectual Property Office. Britain also has a ‘Design Right’ providing automatic protection for 15 years from the date of creation, even when a registered design is not applied for.

Before July 1989 design protection ran for five years from the date of application and was then renewable for a second five year term and then a final five year term, giving a total of 15 years. From August 1989, registered designs have a maximum of 25 years protection subject to renewal fees. From 1842 to 1883 there were two series of designs, Ornamental and Non Ornamental, they can be found in The National Archives.   

Non-Ornamental Designs 

There is a part manuscript part print volume, which contains in date order information on non-ornamental designs. These were minor inventions and had registered numbers which were usually found on the artefacts. This is located with the British Library research team.   

Ornamental Designs 

British ornamental designs registered up until 1883 have a diamond mark on them. From 1884 non-textile designs were issued in a single numbered series, starting from 1 and carrying on to the present day. Objects will typically have ‘RD’ or ‘Reg Des’ on them followed by a number. Designs from 1884 onwards are listed in the Commissioners of Patents journal and then later in The Official Journal (patents). They began to list ornamental designs from number 320,741 and non-ornamental designs from number 6,030. The applicant's name and address but not the title is given.   

Ornamental Class System 

Classes were for the material used rather than for the type of product.

What are registered designs

The table below shows the first design listed in the Official Journal (Patents) for each year from 1884 to 1932. That is, the first design listed in Class I of the first issue for that year. The list ends in 1932, after this designs are listed each week alphabetically by the applicant and it becomes virtually impossible to trace a design number.

Registered designs

Historical designs are kept in the National Archives up until the end of 1990. The Intellectual Property Office hold copies of more recent decisions – from 2,012,309 onwards and can provide copies if the number is known   

Searching for designs by number 

Representations of British designs were not published until October 1997 in Designs in View. This shows non-textile designs. The British Library does not hold any copies of British Designs except for those appearing in Designs in View. Currently protected British designs (in force as of 1st June 1997) can be searched using Design Finder.   

Searching for British designs by subject 

British designs are not arranged by subject. Early design classes, up until 1933, are arranged by the type of material only. British designs can be searched by subject using the Locarno Class system and the official designs database on the Intellectual Property Office website. The Locarno agreement establishes an International classification for Industrial designs. It was signed in 1968 and amended in 1979.   

Searching British Designs by applicant 

From May 1878 British designs began to be listed in the Commissioners of Patents Journal. Currently protected British Designs can be searched using the applicants name on the Intellectual Property Office official designs database.   

If you need more help you can visit the Business & IP Centre or contact The Intellectual Property Office and The National Archives:   

The Intellectual Property Office 

The IPO is the official government body responsible for granting Intellectual Property rights in the United Kingdom. Can be contacted by phone - 0300 300 2000 or by email. You can take a look at their web page. Attend a workshop or event on intellectual property at the Business & IP Centre to find out more. 

The National Archives 

The National Archives is a government department and an executive agency of the Secretary of State for Justice. It brings together the Public Record Office, Historical Manuscripts Commission, the Office of Public Sector Information and Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Their address is The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Their telephone number is 020 8876 3444. You can take a look at their web page.

If you’re a budding inventor, innovator or entrepreneur, at the Business & IP Centre we can quickly help you find out whether registered design protection is something suitable for your business idea. Register for our workshop ‘Introduction to Registered Designs’ to try out some of the web databases we have available and take the opportunity to ask questions of our registered design experts. Visit our events page to view our upcoming events.

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