In today’s competitive business environment, the success of a product or brand is frequently determined by its distinctive design. A compelling design not only draws buyers’ attention but also separates a product from its competition. Many companies and individuals in India choose design registration under the Designs Act, 2000 to safeguard their designs from being duplicated or stolen. This article delves into the design registration procedure in India, its importance, and the important features of design protection.
In India, a registered design encompasses the aesthetics and overall appearance of a product. Unlike trademarks, where registration is not mandatory, design protection in India only begins after the design is registered. A design includes elements such as shape, configuration, pattern, decoration, or composition of lines or colors applied to any object through industrial means. It can be either two-dimensional or three-dimensional and must be visually evaluated. Designs exclude principles of construction, mechanical devices, trademarks, service marks, or artistic creations.
To be eligible for registration under the Designs Act, a design must possess certain attributes, as outlined in Section 4 of the Act. These prerequisites include:
Design registration confers several rights upon the owner, most notably the ability to take legal action against design infringement or piracy.
The registration process, as outlined in Chapter 2 of the Designs Act, involves the following steps:
Prior Search: To satisfy the requirement of novelty and originality, a prior search must be conducted in accessible databases using the Locarno classification system. This search helps identify existing designs similar to the one being registered.
Filing of Application: If no identical designs are found during the prior search, an application for registration must be filed with the Design & Patent Office, Kolkata. The application should include a statement of novelty and a disclaimer, emphasizing the uniqueness of the design and facilitating specific protection.
Examination Stage: The Controller of Designs examines the application and may raise objections if unsatisfied or if concerns arise. The applicant has the opportunity to respond to the examination report within three months.
Acceptance and Publication: If the Controller deems the response suitable, the application is accepted. The design is then published in the Official Gazette, marking its official registration.
Following registration, the duration of design protection in India is initially ten years. If priority is asserted, the term begins on the date priority was given. Before the first time of design expires, the term can be extended for an additional five years by applying to the Controller and paying the necessary charge.
The design registration fee in India varies depending on the type of applicant. For natural persons/small entities/startups, the fee is Rs. 1000, and for other entities, it is Rs. 4000.
To illustrate the breadth and diversity of designs, here are a few examples of designs –
When a design is registered, the owner of the design is granted exclusive rights to use the design and is granted the ability to take legal action against any unauthorised use, imitation, or infringement of the registered design. Injunctions, monetary damages, and an accounting of profits are some of the possible remedies for design infringement. Because of the significant part that they play in the process of enforcing design rights, it is highly recommended that accurate records and documentation of the registration be kept.
In India, design registration often intersects with trademarks and copyrights. Some individuals seek to register their designs as trademarks or as artistic works under copyright to benefit from longer protection periods. While design protection lasts for a maximum of 15 years, trademarks can be protected for life based on renewal, and copyrights exist during the author’s lifetime plus 60 years. To address this overlap, steps should be taken to increase the duration of design protection and encourage more individuals to apply for design registration.
Design protection and registration in India play a pivotal role in safeguarding creativity and promoting innovation. By securing exclusive rights over their designs, businesses can capitalize on their uniqueness and prevent unauthorized copying. The Designs Act, 2000, provides a legal framework for the registration and protection of designs, ensuring that designers’ efforts are recognized and rewarded. As the business landscape continues to evolve, the importance of design registration and protection will only grow, inspiring new waves of creativity and contributing to the growth of industries across the country.