EU design protection rules modernised for new technologies and circular economy

On 14 March 2024, the European Parliament approved modernised EU design protection rules to adapt to technological advances and the drive towards a sustainable economy. These updated rules now extend protection to digital products such as animations, maps and fonts, in addition to physical objects. This extension recognises the rise of new technologies such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

The new system is designed to be more attractive to individual designers and small businesses, while offering protection for up to 25 years. The fee structure has been adjusted to encourage longer-term design protection, with scaled renewal fees designed to encourage continued protection, particularly for individual designers and SMEs.

Significantly, the updated rules specifically address the protection of the design of product components by excluding the design of components of complex products, encouraging an open market for spare parts and giving consumers greater choice for repairs. This move is seen as a step towards a more sustainable spare parts market by promoting competition. EU countries that currently protect the design of spare parts will be required to remove this protection within a shortened transitional period of eight years.

The legislative update, described as an overhaul, is seen as a response to the evolving technological landscape and a step towards liberalising the spare parts market to the benefit of consumers. The Regulation and Directive were adopted with broad support and will enter into force shortly after publication in the Official Journal, with Member States having 36 months to transpose the Directive into national law.

Read the official press release here.