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How Do I Protect My Design Idea

The light bulb moment has happened – you’ve had a great product idea! You’ve stumbled across a problem that everyone experiences and can’t find anything on the market that solves this problem. What next – how do I protect my design idea?

You will be pleased to know that there are a few ways you can protect your product idea before it hits the shops. People often think that a patent is the only and best way to do this. However, patents are very costly and can take a few years to obtain from the UK Patent Office; subsequently delaying your product from getting to market. Many savvy businesses operating in fast moving sectors favour not to patent their designs and continuously develop new products that capture the imagination of their customers.

Before embarking on this journey, it is important to consider that your idea may not be ‘patentable’. This is because the product must demonstrate a clear innovation step in order to be protected in this way. It is also important to consider that patents exist for products and ideas that never reached the market. This means that you may not be able to progress your invention as someone had a similar idea 5 years ago but decided not to take it any further than filing intellectual property (IP).

If you are lucky enough to get a patent granted for your design idea, it will not stop a competitor from copying your product. If this was to happen, the likelihood is that you will need to legally challenge the competitor so that they remove their product from the market; and I’m sure you can start to imagine the costs involved in spearheading a legal battle. That said, patents do act as a deterrent to copycats; add value to a business and can help attract investors. This is why it’s important to align your business goals with your chosen IP strategy.

Design registration is a far more cost effective way of protecting a product and securing formal IP for your business. However, such registrations are only concerned with the form of a product or feature. Unlike patents, they cannot be used to protect a mechanism or process. The Trunki ride on suitcase famously protects its product range using design registrations rather than patents as they can offer up to 25 years of security. Due to the affordability of design registrations they are often applied strategically whereby numerous registrations are filed to protect variants of the product that will be launched. The intention of this is to prevent similar looking products from getting to market that do not directly infringe your design idea. Design registrations are rapidly increasing in popularity as they provide a sensible level of legal protection and are cost effective, enabling businesses to focus funds on new product development rather than legal protection.

Ultimately – if an individual or company is intent on producing a similar product as you that solves a similar problem or produces a similar result, they will do so but ensure that they avoid infringement of your design. This is why being first-to-market is often seen as being the best way to secure long-term customer loyalty.

If you need support developing your product idea, please contact us to discuss you requirements in confidence by calling 01291 442181 or emailing gethin@iterate-uk.com