The UK government has launched a consultation on plans to lower application and renewal fees for UK registered designs.  This could mean significant savings for businesses looking for registered design protection in the UK.

The consultation comes on the back of the launch, by the UK Intellectual Property Office, of a new online platform for registering designs.  The UK government wants to pass on to businesses the anticipated cost savings from this new streamlined approach.  In addition, the government has stated that it wants to make the UK “the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and set up and expand a business”.  It says that the UK’s “intellectual property system needs to help existing and new designers and business flourish.”  With that in mind, the government believes that reductions to the existing fees should make it easier for designers, particularly individual designers and small start-ups, to get and maintain the right design protection.

If implemented, the fee reductions will be substantial.   Filing fees will be based on the number of applications filed; the more applications, the greater the saving.  For example, the fee for filing one design application will be reduced from £60 to £50 (not a great saving).  However, businesses will, for the first time, be able to file up to ten designs for a single fee of £70 (currently £420) and up to 20 designs for a single fee of £90 (currently £820).  Renewal fees will also be reduced, with the biggest savings made in the third and final renewal periods.   For example, the renewal fee payable at the end of year 15 would be £110 compared with the current £310 (a 64% reduction).   At year 20, the fee would be £140 instead of the current £450 (a 69% saving).  Overall, the total renewal fees for a full 25 year term would be reduced by 63% from £1,100 to £410.

The government hopes that lower renewal fees will encourage designers to renew their design protection for the full 25 year term.  Currently, the tendency is for designers to maintain only those registrations core to their business and to allow others to lapse.

If these proposals are implemented, any business looking to obtain UK registered design protection will benefit.  To make the greatest cost savings, businesses would be advised to bulk file.  This would open up the opportunity for designers to really maximise their registered design protection by filing multiple applications, each covering notable individual parts of their design, rather than one application for the overall design in its entirety.  This would make it more likely that a designer would succeed in an infringement action concerning a competing product that replicates only certain features of the original design.

As part of the consultation, the government invites comments on whether the fee reductions will in fact have the effect of encouraging more registered design applications and renewals.  The consultation closes on 29 January.  We will post further on the outcome.