Subject to limited exceptions, the proprietor of a registered Community design has the exclusive right, within the European Union, to prevent unauthorised parties making, marketing, selling, importing, exporting, using or stocking products in which the design (or a design which does not produce a different overall impression on an informed user) has been incorporated, or to which it has been applied.
This right extends to any type of product, not just a product specified in a registered Community design application. For example, a registered Community design that specifies a toothbrush holder should be infringed by selling an umbrella stand which incorporates the design that has been registered. In contrast, a trade mark registration is generally infringed only where the trade mark has been used in relation to identical or similar goods or services to those covered by the registration. Accordingly, a registered Community design may offer useful protection in respect of a design that is incorporated into or applied to a wide variety of merchandise.
The rights granted by a registered Community design are limited by the principle of exhaustion of rights. Once a product has been placed on the market anywhere in the European Economic Area (EEA), by or with the consent of the proprietor of a registered Community design, the proprietor cannot generally rely on the registration to prevent subsequent dealings in the product within the EEA. For example, if the proprietor manufactures sunglasses incorporating the registered design and sells them in France, he cannot normally rely on the registered Community design to prevent another company purchasing the sunglasses in France, importing them into the UK and reselling them in the UK at a higher price.
It is also a criminal offence in the UK to intentionally copy a Community registered design without the consent of the proprietor whilst knowing that the design is registered. This is similar to the level of criminal protection given to copyright and trade marks in the UK.