A design or a model is valid if it fulfills the conditions of novelty and individual character.
Novelty is fulfilled if, at the time of the application or of the priority, no identical design or model has been divulged.
Individual character is fulfilled when the overall visual impression it fosters to an informed observer is not the same as produced by any design or model divulged prior to the application or the priority date of the model.
You may conduct searches on the INPI design database , using the right holder name, the classification or keywords. You may obtain more details on international designs or models on Hague Express.
If you wish to search through European designs or models, you should consult eSearch Plus.
However, prior art search in the field of designs or models are never complete :
– Because of the united art theory, according to which a design or model is protected by copyright as well as by design law. Protection by copyright is automatically acquired, without any formality of publication or registration. It is therefore very difficult to perform a search through existing copyrights
– Because of the concept of divulgation, which is very large in Design law. According to the Intellectual Property Code, any design or model that has been “made available to the public through publication, use or any other means” equates divulgation. Divulgation is however not infinite in time and space. Law provides that there is no divulgation “when the design or model could not reasonably have been known, under normal business practice in the sector at hand, by professionals working in the European Community”. Complementary searches may be conducted in specialized reviews, in museums, etc.
– Because the applicant can ask for a postponement of the publication to the Official Bulletin for up to 3 years, depending on the right.
In order to assess the validity of a design or model, consulting an IP expert who is up-to-date regarding recent case law is highly recommended.
You can contact our Trademark and Design department headed by Delphine RUDLOFF.