In Norway the protection of designs is governed by the Designs Act (2003-03-14 No 0015) (Designs Act), made effective from 2003-05-01. The Designs Act replaces the earlier act on designs of 29 May 1970, No. 33.
Several types of products may be protected
The Designs Act allows protection of several types of products. In addition to the overall appearance of a physical object, accessories for an object, and ornamental motifs; the Design Act makes it possible to have protection for, among other things:
A 12 month ”grace period”
- screen images
- type faces
- product constellations (for example: a kitchen, hotel room, or toilet room)
- the appearance of a part of a product even if the part does not form a "separate" component of the product
The Designs Act involves a novelty claim which includes a ”grace period” prior to the filing of the design application with the Norwegian Patent Office. This means that the product may have been publicly disclosed up to 12 months prior to an application for design protection being filed.
Therefore, if the product is publicly disclosed before design protection is applied for, it is important to be able to document when the public disclosure took place and what was publicly disclosed.
However, to prevent future disputes concerning imitations of products, it is recommended that design protection is applied for before the product is publicly disclosed.
With the Designs Act now in effect, there is no longer any obligatory examination as to the novelty of the design, though, the applicant may ask for such an examination. Because the obligatory examination has been removed, it is possible for a third party (and owner) to have the design registration reassessed by the Norwegian Patent Office at any point during the registration period. Administrative reassessment replaces objection pursuant to the earlier law on designs.
As a consequence of the removal of the obligatory examination and the simplification of the processing of the application, the registration of a design is a relatively quick matter.
Period of protection
The Designs Act stipulates a period of protection of 25 years (5 periods of 5 years) maximum. There is an increased fee for each subsequent period.
Apply with priority
The time limit for applying with priority from an earlier application filed in Norway or abroad is 6 months.
Apply without priority
Based on what has been mentioned about a ”grace period”, design protection may be applied for within 12 months after an earlier application was filed or the design was otherwise publicly disclosed. Applicants must remember to provide documentation of the time of public disclosure.