there are three provisions, namely: registered designs, unregistered design rights and artistic copyright.
Registered designs are protected in the UK or EU-wide (if protection is applied for the Office of Harmonisation for Internal Trade) in the class in which they were registered (there are 14 different classes) and any other countries where protection has been applied for. Design registration gives the owner a monopoly on their product design, i.e. the right for a limited period to stop others from making, using or selling a product to which the design has been applied, or in which it has been incorporated without their permission and is additional to any design right or copyright protection that may subsist automatically in the design. Designs are protected under the CDPA 1988 under the Registered Design system for 25 years from the date of first marketing provided registration is renewed every 5 years.
Design right (or unregistered design rights) which is defined as
‘applies to original, non-commonplace designs of the shape or configuration of articles’ (Source: http://www.intellectual- property.gov.uk/faq/designs/design_right.htm)
is not a monopoly right but a right to prevent deliberate copying, and lasts until 10 years after first marketing articles made to the design, subject to an overall limit of 15 years from creation of the design. Design right does not have to be applied for and it can be bought, sold or licensed.
The design is owned by the company, if created in the course of employment or if created for a company it is likely to be the property of the company employing the contractor, but that depends on contractual conditions.
Copyright may exist in design documents or if the design itself is considered an artistic work it may have protection under copyright law which will extend 70 years after the death of the creator.
3.3.3 Inclusion in a multimedia repository
Tracing registered designs still in force will be relatively easy through UK and other databases. While the protection for the design has been exhausted there may still be copyright protection for the design documents. The latter will need to be cleared which may be challenging e.g. where companies have merged. Designs can be subject to copyright as well but there are rules in place to reduce the overlap between the two rights.
Representing the designs by new images will create a new copyright in the images subject to the appropriate duration. Should previously created images be used then copying these will require the permission of the copyright holder, especially if it is simply a matter of converting these to digital form. Reasonable efforts should be made to trace the rights holders.
There are special provisions for designs applied to textiles.