The European Commission has proposed new rules on intellectual property (IP) that are aimed at making it cheaper and quicker to protect industrial designs across the EU.
The commission says that industrial design constitutes the outer appearance of a product, characterised by its lines, contours or shape.
Its proposals for a revised regulation and directive on such designs will modernise the existing EU and parallel national frameworks, which were created 20 years ago.
“The revised rules will help to further improve the conditions for businesses to innovate. At the same time, the rules also introduce a more balanced approach to design protection,” the commission said.
“This ensures that designs can be reproduced for spare parts, allowing consumers more choice in repairing complex products, such as cars in particular,” it added.
The proposals will simplify and streamline the procedure for the EU-wide registration of a design, by making it easier to present designs in an application for registration, or to combine more than one design in one application.
The new rules would also lower the fees to be paid for the first ten years of protection.
The proposals also aim to create a level playing field for businesses across the EU by harmonising procedures across member states.
The commission is also introducing an EU-wide ‘repair clause' in the proposed directive, to help to open up and increase competition in the spare-parts market.
“This is particularly important in the car-repair sector, where it should become legally possible in all EU countries to reproduce identical ‘must match’ car-body parts for repair to restore their original appearance,” the EU body says.
The proposed ‘repair clause' would have instant legal effect only for future designs. while designs already granted protection would remain covered during a transitional period of ten years.
The plans announced yesterday (29 November) follow an Intellectual Property Action Plan adopted in November 2020, when the commission announced that it would revise the EU legislation on design protection to address some shortcomings that had been identified.