In contrast to other jurisdictions, under German national law unregistered designs do not exist, i.e. a design must be registered with the German Patent and Trademark Office. Assuming the registration is valid, design protection is provided for up to 25 years. If protection is required in foreign jurisdictions, corresponding registrations may be obtained based on the German application.
Design protection available for a wide range of commercial products or parts thereof, more recently also including logos, computer icons, graphical user interfaces and fictional characters. In many cases, therefore, both design and trademark registrations will be available for the same thing.
To be valid, the design must be new, i.e. it must not have been disclosed anywhere in the world before the application is filed, although there are certain exceptions such as a one-year grace period relating to disclosures by the same designer. However, in case design protection may be required in other jurisdictions, the safest bet is to keep any design secret until the design application has been filed. Besides novelty, a design must have individual character to be valid. This means the design must produce a different overall impression from any known design.
There is no official search or novelty examination, but there is examination for basic formal requirements. Registration, and hence publication, of the design is expected to occur within a few weeks of filing.
Unfortunately, although the basic concept of design registration is simple, the law relating to it is rather complex. As a result, the foregoing is only a very brief and approximate indication of how the system works.
Whilst there is no legal requirement that applicants for Registered Designs be represented, we would recommend that advice be sought from a German Patent and Trade Mark Attorney. Professional advice should also be considered if a new product is to be launched so that the risk of infringing someone else’s rights can be considered. The German Patent and Trademark attorneys at Dehns, who are also specialized in design protection, are happy to assist you.