Re-designing the system – the UK IPO consults on the future of UK design protection – all questions answered by the government*! *not

I reported on the post-Brexit consultation launched by the UK government into the design system here, and the government’s response was recently published here.

This article looks at the main conclusions offered in the government response.  If you were envisaging that the response would set out a clear plan for the reform of the system then you may be disappointed, but it does at least indicate the government’s priorities for further research.

Registered designs – search and examination

The responses received recognised the tension between a quick and low cost registration system without any searching or examination on substantive issues, and the increased certainty that searching would bring to the validity of a registration.  However, the government merely reserves the right to review this issue at a later date and another consultation on this point is promised.

Simplifying the designs system

It was noted that “lone designers and small companies who cannot afford to employ legal representatives find it hard to understand the UK designs system”.   From the first article in this series you will understand my view that it is not just lone designers and small companies who struggle in this area.  The government indicates it will investigate options for simplifying the design regime, particularly the unregistered design regime, but does not offer any ideas.  Improved guidance for designers is going to be considered.

Disclosure of supplementary unregistered designs

The uncertainty regarding how first publication impacts on supplementary unregistered designs and Community unregistered designs seems to be one area where most respondents felt that clarification was needed.   The UK government will consider the issue further.

Future technologies

Keeping pace with developments is often challenging for legislation of this type, and the government will keep the impact of technological changes on the designs system under review.   There was a significant call on the UK IPO to expand the list of allowable file formats, and this was noted in the government response.  The topical issues of NFTs, blockchain and virtual designs were mentioned in the responses.


There was a clear consensus in favour of deferment but mixed views on whether the period should be 12, 18 or 30 months.  The government have deferred a decision on this point and it will be considered before a further consultation is launched.


The UK government takes the view that it has an excellent enforcement system, but many respondents commented on the cost and complexity of the system.  This aspect of the system will be considered and further evidence will be sought before a decision is made as to whether changes are needed.

Who responded?

It is always hard to get informed input in response to consultations of this type, particularly as some businesses may be suffering from consultation fatigue in the aftermath of Brexit.  The Design Council suggests the value of this sector is nearly £100 billion and that it employs almost 2 million people.    However the consultation received 57 responses, and there was also a separate survey aimed a designers which produced 288 responses.   Given the complexity of the current design system it is questionable whether all of these respondents will be sufficiently aware of the different systems and their interaction to give a fully informed view.

What to look forward to?

More consultations by the look of it!


Category: Latest Insights, News | Author: Ian Gill | Published: | Read more