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Who owns unregistered designs

Written by Jane Coyle on 03 September 2008

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If the design is created in the course of someone’s employment the ownership of the design belongs to the employer. Essentially this is the same as copyright. In the case of Ultrafame Limited the claimant company was held to be the owner of unregistered designs created by the person who had been managing director and major shareholder. In A Fulton Co Limited v Grant Barnett and Co Limited. The claimant company was also held to own an unregistered design created by a director despite the lack of service contract between company and director.

As with registered design right if the design is created as a result of a commission then the ownership belongs to the commissioner not the designer. This is in contrast to the position with Copyright. If the unregistered design right arises by ‘first marketing’ qualifications the person who first markets the design will be the first owner of the unregistered design right. This is the same for registered design.

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