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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Harmonised national laws on the protection of designs

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Harmonised national laws on the protection of designs



Directive 98/71/EC ensuring the protection of industrial designs


It aims to harmonise national laws on the protection of design to ensure the right holder has the same protection in all EU countries.

National laws exist alongside an EU-wide system for obtaining a Community design covered by uniform protection.


The directive applies to design* rights registered:

Conditions of protection

To qualify for protection, a design has to be new and have an individual character. EU countries protect designs by registering them and conferring exclusive rights on their designers.

Term of protection

The design is protected for one or more periods of 5 years, with a maximum duration of 25 years. The protection confers on the holder the exclusive right to use the design and to prevent any third party from using it.

Rights conferred by registration

The registration of a design shall confer on its holder the exclusive right to use it and to prevent any unauthorised third party from using it.

Restriction of rights

The rights conferred by a design right do not extend to:

  • acts done on a private basis and for non-commercial purposes;
  • acts done for experimental purposes;
  • acts of reproduction for illustrative or educational purposes;
  • equipment on board ships and aircraft registered in another country when these temporarily enter the territory of the EU country concerned;
  • importation into the EU country of spare parts and accessories for the purpose of repairing such craft;
  • the execution of repairs on such craft.

Also excluded from protection are:

  • items incorporated into a product which are not visible during ‘normal’ use of this product;
  • the characteristics of a product’s appearance which are solely dictated by its technical function;
  • the characteristics of a product’s appearance which have to be reproduced in order to allow the product to be mechanically connected to, placed in or around, or in contact with another product;
  • equipment on board ships and aircraft which temporarily enter the territory of another EU country;
  • spare parts and accessories which are imported into that EU country for the purpose of repairing the aforementioned craft;
  • designs which are contrary to public order or public morality.


A design right can be declared invalid, in certain defined cases, even after it has lapsed or has been surrendered (i.e. the right has been given up by the rights holder).

Relationship with other forms of protection

If, in an EU country, designs are protected by laws concerning unregistered designs, copyright, trademarks, patents and utility models or any other law, these laws still apply side by side with the specific legislation on the protection of designs.


It has applied since 17 November 1998. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 28 October 2001.


For more information, see:


Design: The appearance of all or part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation.


Directive 98/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 on the legal protection of designs (OJ L 289, 28.10.1998, pp. 28-35)


Council Regulation (EC) No 6/2002 of 12 December 2001 on Community designs (OJ L 3, 5.1.2002, pp. 1-24)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 6/2002 have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 07.07.2016