Outward appearance, as specified in a design, plays a very important role in the distinctiveness and value of products. As a result, organisations are increasingly choosing to protect their design rights by registering them.
All industrial property rights are intended to protect the creativity of businesses and individuals. However they do not cover the same aspects. The design right only covers the appearance of a product; it does not protect the function of a product.
In terms of Maltese law, a design is the outward appearance of a product or part of it, resulting from the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture, materials and/or its ornamentation. On the other hand, a product can be any industrial or handicraft item including packaging, graphic symbols and typefaces but excluding computer programmes. It also includes products that are composed of multiple components, which may be disassembled and reassembled.
In order to be protected, a design must be new and have individual character. It is considered new if no identical design has been made available to the public before the date of application. Designs are deemed to be identical if their features differ only in immaterial details. A design is considered to have individual character if the overall impression it produces on the informed user differs from the overall impression produced on such a user by any design which has been made available to the public before the date of filing of the application for registration.
The registration of a design shall confer on its holder the exclusive right to use it and to prevent any third party not having his consent from using it. The aforementioned use shall cover, in particular, the making, offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting or using of a product in which the design is incorporated or to which it is applied, or stocking such a product for those purposes.
The intellectual property department deals with the designs whether registered or unregistered. The department handles the registration process for designers both at national, i.e. Maltese, level as well as at European Union level through the registered design right administered by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). We also advise on all aspects of registration and exploitation of a registered design, and assist with licences, assignments, and infringements. Our service is all-encompassing, up-to-date and efficient.