Complex Products' Spare Parts: The End of Design Rights?

In 1998, a European Directive (the ‘Design Directive’) partially harmonized the EU Member States’ laws protecting from copy the design of complex products’ visible parts.  Under the Design Directive, manufacturers of complex products are able to register anywhere in the EU the design of their products’ original equipment parts, provided this design is new and has individual character. However, the Directive did not harmonize the law with regards to design rights for replacement parts. Consequently, while sixteen EU countries still allow complex products manufacturers to register the design of replacement visible parts, the remaining nine (including the UK) do not.

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