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“How do I protect myself against corporate monsters?”

"Even with less resources than the corporate, don’t assume that your position is defenseless. If the work in your designs is original and you can show that it involved independent skill and labour, it may have copyright protection. Create and maintain a strong system of records, to evidence your work in creating designs. Store those records in a safe place. Records will be key to any later dispute.    "You might also benefit from protection of a design right, once your ideas have been translated to "paper" or sketches or patterns. These rights exist both in registered and unregistered form. There is a cost linked to registration, of course, but it is not overwhelming. A UK design right can exist where your design comprises an aspect of shape or configuration (but not a design for surface decoration). The design must be original and the right applies to functional designs. It’s limited to ten years from the first marketing of the design or 15 years from the creation of your design document.   "A community design right has existed in the EU since 2002 in both unregistered and registered flavours. An unregistered right protects you exclusively for three years from the date when the design is first made available to the public in the EU. A registered right has to be obtained from OHIM in Alicante and protects your design from unauthorised use for 25 years (the process involves renewable tranches of five years). The design is protected immediately from the application date across the entire EU and the registration fee starts from €350 plus renewals. But make sure you apply to register before publication of your design.   "If you take legal advice and follow it, you should create a right to prevent your contract partner and third parties from producing, selling, importing or exporting goods in which your design is incorporated. For designs, good timing and good records are key to your success."Stuart Miller is a partner at law firm Miller Rosenfalck

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