'Registered design' and 'Design patent' are two terms are often used interchangeably. They are similar rights, used to protect the aethetic appearance of a product, but they arise in different jurisdictions.

A 'Design patent' is a US right for protecting aesthetic appearance. These design patents are distinct from 'utility patents', which protect technical inventions, such as a new machine, manufacturing system or process. In the USA, the term 'patent' could therefore be considered a broad category of IP right that encompasses both utility patents and design patents.

In Europe and the UK, aesthetic designs are protected with 'registered designs'. You might see this referred to as a 'UK registered design', 'Community registered design (CRD)', 'Community design registration (CDR)'... and possibly other variations on this theme! In Europe and the UK, the term 'patent' is reserved only for technical inventions, so you won't see the term 'design patent' under the EU or UK system.

US design patents and EU/UK registered designs can protect designs in similar ways, but there are a few differences between the systems. For example, a US design patent cannot protect some features, such as colour, which are protectable by an EU or UK registered design. The term of protection for a design patent is 15 years, with no renewal fees required, whereas the maximum term of protection for an EU/UK registered design is 25 years, but requiring renewal fees every 5 years.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.