June 19, 2024 | Patrik Anthoni


IP Essentials: Design Rights

Design rights play an important role in shaping the visual identity of businesses and safeguarding the ownership of their creations. In this segment of our series on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) in Finland, we delve into the significance of design rights, their impact on SMEs, and strategies for maximizing their potential and value.


Design rights can be characterised as the most important IPR-related legal tool when it comes the protection of a brand image and the brand’s industrial designs. In Finland, design rights are gained by applying for registering the rights at the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH). Design rights encompass the visual aspects of products and creations, including their shape, configuration, ornamentation, and aesthetics. By registering a design, its holder is granted exclusive rights to the specific design elements, whether the design right is only for artistic appearances or for a functional innovation. Especially for SMEs, it is oftentimes crucial that investments and innovations don’t go to waste. By registering design rights, companies can ensure proper protection of its investment in innovative design, prevent unauthorized copying or imitation, and enhance the marketability of its products.

The requirements for registering design rights are the originality and individuality of the design right in question. The requirement for originality or yet, novelty, sets restrictions for the commercial use of the design prior to registration. A design right can only be registered if it is new, and therefore products that are intended to be protected by design rights must by rule not be marketed or sold prior to the registration if the so-called grace period cannot be applied.

On the other hand, a design right that is intended to be registered must have individual character. For this requirement there is no general or schematic rule for deciding upon the individuality of the character, and the evaluation is rather done based on an overall impression of the design. When applying for registration of the design right the registration authority (PRH) takes into account the intended use of the product as well as the product group it belongs to.

Overall, for the registration to be accepted, the design right has to be the result of creative intellectual work and therefore basic shapes and overly simple designs cannot be registered.


It is close to impossible to try to protect your creative designs against imitations or counterfeits if the right to the design has not been registered. When copyright protection is not enough and when the requirements for the registration of a patent are not quite met, design rights are a fantastic tool to protect your IPR. The registering of design rights offers numerous advantages for all companies operating in diverse industries.

Registered designs serve as powerful tools for brand differentiation, enabling companies to establish a unique visual identity in the marketplace and cultivate brand recognition and loyalty among customers. In addition, design rights provide companies with legal protection against unauthorized copying, imitation, or counterfeiting of their products, safeguarding their market share, and preserving the integrity of their designs.

Well-designed products protected by design rights are often perceived as more desirable and valuable by consumers, allowing companies to command premium prices, gain a competitive edge, and capture market opportunities. Design rights can also be monetized through licensing agreements, merchandising deals, and collaborations, enabling companies to leverage their design assets for additional revenue streams and business growth.


To effectively harness the potential of design rights, companies should adopt proactive strategies for design protection. Companies should file a design application as early as possible to secure priority rights and prevent others from registering similar designs. Working closely with design professionals or IP advisors helps to ensure compliance with registration requirements and maximize the scope of protection.

Developing a comprehensive portfolio of registered designs covering key products, variations, and iterations, and regular review and update of design registrations helps to adapt to changing market trends and consumer preferences. Continuous investing in design innovation and creativity leads to distinctive and novel designs that resonate with target audiences and differentiate companies from competitors in the marketplace.

Holders of design and other intellectual property rights should monitor the market for infringing or counterfeit products that may violate their rights – taking prompt legal action against infringers to enforce design rights and protect companies’ interests and market exclusivity further consolidates the proprietor’s exclusive presence in the market.


Design rights are a central form of protection when discussing IPRs. By investing in design right protection and by adopting proactive strategies for IP management, companies can effectively boost their market growth and revenue, drive brand differentiation and create a loyal consumer base.  

We at Nordic Law are specialized in brand protection and IP matters. If you have any questions related to the registration or protection of your IP, we are happy to help!

Our Associate Trainee Charlotta Grandell took part in creating this article.

Nordic LawPioneer in Web3 and Fintech law