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In Ireland and the UK, the shape, configuration, pattern or ornament of a design may be protected through a Registered Design. The process involved in registering a design in a country involves filing an application for protection at the patents office of that country, prosecuting the application to acceptance, and then attending to the payment of renewal fees every five years to keep the protection in force. In Ireland, Registered Design protection can last up to 25 years subject to the payment of renewal fees every five years. Registered Design protection may be obtained through the European Community by means of a Community Design Registration (CDR). The protection conferred by a CDR last for up to 25 years upon payment of renewal fees every five years.
Since 2002, European law has provided for an unregistered design right. This is a form of protection for designs that automatically comes into existence once the design has been put on the market, or otherwise disclosed to the public, in the European Community. As it is an unregistered right, there is no need to apply for protection. However, as the term of protection is only three years, it is best suited for the protection of products having short life cycles, such as clothing designs. The recent Irish High Court case successfully taken by Karen Millen against Dunnes Stores was based on enforcement of European (Unregistered) Design Right legislation.