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The business case for design patent protection
5 mins

The business case for design patent protection

Table of Contents:


    When it comes to protecting intellectual property, design rights often take a backseat to copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Design rights or design patents, after all, only protect the look and feel of a product, not what it does or how it’s made. But there are still numerous uses for design rights, and in many cases they have advantages over other types of protection.


    • Why should you care about protecting your design?
    • What happens if someone steals your design?
    • How can I exploit my design rights?
    • How technology can help you protect your design rights

    Why should you care about protecting your design?

    Design rights protect the lines, colors, texture, materials, contours, shape, and appearance of a product or its ornamentation. If visual design plays any role in your product, you should be interested in protecting that design.

    Many copycat products don’t contain a trademark or logo in order to evade enforcement. But you can request for these types of listings to be taken down if you have the design registered. That means you can enforce against any product that copies the visual likeness of yours.

    Design rights are also important for fast-moving industries where companies have large and ever-changing product assortments. Registering a design right is affordable, and usually much faster than registering other types of IP. This makes design rights useful for industries like jewellery, kitchenware, lighting and houseware

    What happens if someone steals your design?

    Besides feeling generally depressed that someone stole your design, there are a few real consequences of design theft:

    • Loss of uniqueness and product exclusivity: This is a big issue. Your customers expect your products to be unique and exclusive. If they can get the same thing (visually) from another seller for half the price, why should they buy yours?
    • R&D investment lost: It takes a lot of time and money to develop a new product and bring it to market. All of that effort can go down the drain when counterfeiters start stealing your sales. At that point, you’ve basically done the hard work of creating a new product for someone else to come in and reap the benefits.
    • Marketing investment lost: The goal with marketing is to build desire for your product and draw customers. Unfortunately, that desire could be fulfilled by a counterfeit with the same design as your product. Your marketing campaign would drive sales for the counterfeiter, in that case.

    How can I exploit my design rights?

    In the UK and EU, design rights come in two varieties: unregistered design rights and registered design rights. EU rights are called community design rights. Products automatically have unregistered design rights for 3 years in the EU and up to 15 years in the UK. However, the owner has to prove that an infringement was deliberate to enforce the right.

    Registered design rights can last up to 25 years in either jurisdiction, and the owner doesn’t have to prove an infringement was deliberate.

    It can take a few weeks to two months to register a design in the UK or EU, which is very fast. To register your design rights in either the UK or EU, you have to file within 12 months of the product being released into the market.

    In the US, a design right is called a design patent. It can take 12 months or more to secure a design patent in the US but securing other types of patents can take even longer.

    Besides using design rights as another way to protect your intellectual property, you can license the design rights to collect another income stream. If you no longer use the design, you can also sell the right to another party. You can even use design rights as security to qualify for a loan.

    How technology can help you protect your design rights

    Red Points’ solution helps more than 1000 clients in multiple industries protect their intellectual property and stop counterfeit sellers. The platform detects counterfeit listings in multiple ways, including three types of image technology: image recognition, image fingerprinting, and logo recognition.

    Image recognition

    Our image recognition software can scan photos and tell if your product is contained in an image with other items. This works even if the photo is edited. For example, below we can see how we are able to identify the bottle (the asset that we protect) inside different images:

    Benefit to brands: Searching by keyword only brings up so many listings. Image recognition goes a step further and can find more listings where the product is being sold without specific keywords or branded terms. With the help of image recognition, we can use general search terms to detect more potential infringements and then cut through the noise to highlight only those listings that are relevant.

    Image fingerprinting

    Some counterfeiters and copycats use the brand’s original images to promote their listings. This puts consumers at risk since it makes the listings more believable. Image fingerprinting relies on copyrighted digital photos to take down these listings quickly. It allows brands to keep their official images protected from infringers.

    With image fingerprinting we are able to remove listings that are using catalogue and official images of the brand based on copyright. For example, we can see if someone is using your official image to sell counterfeit products even if it is edited, cropped, or tweaked. We are able to protect your images and then send an enforcement notification stating that the listing is violating your copyright.

    Benefit to brands: Image fingerprinting is very useful for design brands who wish to protect their official images. It is also very straightforward since it allows brands to remove listings based on their copyright. When a counterfeit listing does not use specific keywords or the trademark name of the brand, image copyright is a great shortcut for brands to use.

    Logo recognition 

    This technique allows us to identify images that are using the brand logo, even if it’s edited or cropped. It’s another way to pull up more potential listings that aren’t using keywords or a specific brand photo.

    The advantage you can tap into with Red Points’ anti-counterfeit software is large-scale enforcement through artificial intelligence and machine learning. You can multiply the efficiency of your brand protection efforts and identify infringements at scale with high accuracy.

    All of these different image search techniques allow us to think outside the box and find more ways to detect infringements.

    The case of FOREO

    FOREO’s line of cosmetics and beauty products certainly inspired many customers, but that’s not all. The company had a big problem with counterfeits—at one point there were dozens of fakes all pretending to be one of its legitimate products.

    The example below from 1688 is a real FOREO replica infringement that we’ve identified based on the unique shape of the product alone through image search technology.

    For FOREO, we were able to find infringements that don’t use the trademark or the brand or logo name in the images. FOREO has been able to take down 22,000 listings and $2.5 million in fake merchandise through Red Points.

    Beyond image protection

    Beyond image protection, we use other technologies to help brands keep their designs safe online.

    Machine learning: Our algorithms learn with each detection and enforcement so brands can improve their protection over time. Thanks to machine learning, we are able to scale the process at the speed and size of today’s ecommerce. This aspect also helps automate the validation of the incidents and speed up the whole process.

    Automation rules: Within the brand protection platform, you can set up rules with different triggers and automate the full process from detection to removal. For instance, you can create a rule that says a listing should go directly to enforcement if the product is below a certain price. The great thing about automation rules is that they are fully customizable, which means it’s up to you to decide what you want to automate.


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