A design can in many cases be decisive in a product’s commercial success. The concept of a design includes the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself, and/or its ornamentation. Where a design is new and has individual character, it can be registered and benefit from protection.
A design is considered to be new if no identical design has been made available to the public prior to filing of its registration or, if priority is claimed, before the date of priority. On the other hand, a design is considered to have individual character if the overall impression it has on the informed user differs from the overall impression produced by any other design which has been made available to the public before the date of filing for registration or, if priority is claimed, before the priority date.
The following may not be registered as a design:
- features of appearance of a product which are solely dictated by its technical function;
- features of appearance of a product which must necessarily be reproduced in their exact form and dimensions in order to allow the product, in which the design is incorporated or to which the design is applied, to function;
- a design serving the purpose of allowing multiple assembly or connection of multiple interchangeable products within a modular system.
- a design which is contrary to public policy or accepted principles of morality;
- a design which consists of the national flag of Malta, or contains Presidential or Episcopal arms or principal armorial bearings or representation of flags.
The registration of a design grants its holder the exclusive right to use it and to prevent any third party from using it without the owner’s consent. These rights subsist from the date of registration but no infringement proceedings may be initiated before the date on which the design is in fact registered.
A design right is protected for a period of 5 years from the date of filing of the application and is renewable for one or more periods of 5 years each up to a total term of 25 years.