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September 17, 2021

Protecting Your IP in the Food and Drink Industry – Registered Designs


Following on from our earlier post on Trade Marks as part of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, today we share some tips on how Registered Designs may be used to protect products in the Food and Drink sector.  Whilst Trade Marks are the most obvious means of protecting the brand identity of a new food and drinks product, registered designs can provide valuable additional or alternative protection.


Q. What is a Registered Design?

A. A Registered Design provides monopoly rights to its holder (for up to 25 years) in respect of the appearance of a product or its packaging. Aspects of appearance which are protectable arise from features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials of the product or its ornamentation. For a Registration Design to be valid and enforceable, the features of appearance must be both “newand possess something known as “individual character”.


Q. As a producer in the food and drink industry, how can I use Registered Designs?

A. The flexibility of the Registered Design system allows it to be used strategically to build effective “thickets” of protection around a new product. For example, protection can be readily secured for part(s) of a new food product or its packaging, or even the combination of a foodstuff within its packaging (think Colin the Caterpillar® in his box!). Furthermore, protection need not be restricted only to features of shape. Features of colour, texture, shape, and contour can be protected both individually and in combination in order to maximise the benefits of registration.  For example, Cadbury UK Limited has secured Registered Design protection individually for the shape of many of its chocolate bars and for their wrappers.


Q. I already file Trade Marks. Why should I consider Registered Designs too?

A. A Registered Design can be used to protect aspects of a product or its packaging which may not be easily protectable via a Trade Mark. Unlike for Trade Marks, there is no requirement for the features of appearance of a design to be identifiable as an indicator of commercial origin. Moreover, there is no requirement to associate a Registered Design with particular classes of goods or services.


Q. Why is it important for my business to invest in Registered Designs?

A. Designs protected via registration are monopoly rights meaning that they provide their holder with exclusivity (for up to 25 years) in respect of the commercial use, manufacture, sale, and importation of products embodying the protected design. Designs are significantly quicker and cheaper to obtain than patents. Registered Designs can therefore serve as an extremely valuable and powerful business asset which can be used as a deterrent to potential copyists; or deployed to tackle instances of actual infringement, be they deliberate or unintentional.  Deliberately copying a Registered Design may be a criminal offence in the United Kingdom under the Registered Designs Act 1949 (as amended).


Q. How can we help you?

A. It is highly recommended that you obtain advice from an attorney specialising in this field. The simplicity of the application process itself disguises the complexities involved in securing a commercially effective scope of protection, and avoiding common pitfalls. Often, multiple designs of differing scope will provide more comprehensive protection, and the particular manner in which a design is presented is of crucial importance. Speak to a member of our experienced Design team today.  They can provide advice on why registering your designs could be of benefit to your business, and talk you through the range of different services that Cameron IP offer.


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