In many countries of the world, a design must be new to be validly registered, and will not be regarded as new if it has been disclosed, other than in confidence, before the filing date (or priority date, if relevant) of an application to register the design. However, UK and Community registered design law allow for a grace period of twelve months. This means that disclosures made by, or emanating from, a designer, or his successor in title, in the twelve month period prior to the filing of a registered design application are ignored for the purpose of assessing whether the design is new.
The grace period may be useful if you to wish to market a design before deciding whether to incur the cost of a registered UK or Community design application. Similarly, it may enable you to secure a registration even if there has been an accidental disclosure. However, it is important to appreciate that there are risks involved in making use of the grace period and that, generally, the best advice from a legal standpoint is not to make a pre-filing, non-confidential disclosure. For example, as many other jurisdictions do not have a grace period, a pre-filing, non-confidential disclosure may prevent you from obtaining valid registrations in these countries even if you can still secure a registered UK or Community design by relying on the grace period. Even using confidentiality agreements to make disclosures in confidence entails a certain level of risk.
Under registered UK and Community design law, a disclosure which could not reasonably have become known to persons carrying out business in the relevant specialised sector within the European Economic Area will also be ignored for the purpose of determining whether a design is new. However, you should never seek to rely on this provision which is only intended to exclude very remote disclosures.