World Intellectual Property Day 2023

Top Tips from specialist design rights law firm CMS CMNO

World Intellectual Property Day is marked on 26 April as a unique opportunity to unite with like-minded individuals worldwide in reflecting on how IP facilitates the advancement of the global arts community and fosters the technological innovation that propels human development. The occasion was established by the WIPO Convention in 2000 as a means of enhancing public knowledge and understanding of IP. We asked ND23 Legal Partner CMS CMNO a few questions to help emerging designers understand their design rights – keep reading for details of how you could win the CMS Future Design Star Prize at New Designers 2023.


What are ‘design rights’ and why are they important?

Design rights are a type of “intellectual property” or “IP”, which are legal rights that protect the fruits of creativity of the human mind and the expression of new and innovative ideas. 

In brief, design rights protect the shape and appearance of products and articles, whether manufactured or hand-made. They protect the investment in design innovation and product development, by giving designers the right to stop copycat or “lookalike” products.  

Design rights are not about protecting inventions (what something does or how it works), or general design concepts or ‘ideas’, which are too abstract to be owned by anyone. Design rights are all about how something looks to the eye, and so they protect the specific shape and design features of a particular product or article. 

Design is at the heart of innovation – and robust legal protection for design rights is vital for all types of designers and design-led businesses across all sectors, whether they are big or small.’

Who are CMS – and what is the CMS Design Law Group?

CMS is an international law firm which is top ranked for its expertise in intellectual property law. CMS has a dedicated team of over 450 specialist lawyers, scientists, trade mark and patent attorneys who together have a wealth of understanding and experience, gained in acting for some of the world’s best-known brands. 

As part of our IP practice, we have a dedicated Design Law Group comprising lawyers who focus on the protection and commercialisation of designs in the UK and abroad. CMS can offer support across the full lifecycle of designs, from initial product clearance through to licensing, launch and enforcement.  CMS helps designers maintain and grow the value of their design portfolios while protecting them from those who seek to unlawfully trade off their design innovation and success.  

CMS are leaders in the field, and our team is passionate about design! “We understand the different challenges facing designers and design businesses of all sizes. We are also mindful that legal issues may not be front-of-mind for busy and innovative designers who often are not taught about IP law on their undergraduate courses”, says Sarah Wright, head of CMS’ IP team. Sarah is herself married to an industrial designer so understands first hand the challenges of protecting new designs when you also need to disclose them to potential partners or licensees. What sets CMS apart is not only the range, depth and quality of our knowledge and experience, but also their pragmatic, down-to-earth approach and commitment to promoting British design.’


Why is it important to mark World Intellectual Property Day?


‘As WIPO explain on their blog and FAQs about World IP Day here, a balanced IP system recognizes and rewards inventors and creators for their work and ensures that society benefits from their creativity and ingenuity. 

IP rights provide the means by which researchers, inventors, businesses, designers, artists and others can legally protect their innovative and creative outputs and secure an economic return from them. 

WIPO go on to explain, that to be protected by IP rights, the underlying works must meet certain established criteria to qualify for IP protection:  

  • A song, or a movie, for example, only qualifies for copyright protection if it is original. The same originality test applies to other copyright works such as the design of a fabric pattern or design of the cover of a book, illustration or other decorative 2D work.  
  • To qualify for protection as a registered design in the UK or EU, the design must also be original in the sense of having individual character – which means the work gives a different overall impression to all similar pre-existing works.  

An effective IP system is one that balances the interests of creators and designers with those of society as a whole, and encourages and rewards inventors and creators to continue to invest their time, energy and ingenuity into developing new technologies and new forms of creative expression that both improve and enrich our lives.’

The theme for WIPD 2023 is ‘Women and IP: Accelerating innovation and creativity’. What does this mean to your company? 

‘CMS as a firm has a strong focus on diversity and inclusion. Our IP team is itself diverse and in fact we have more female partners or leaders than men; our current ratio is 8 women to 6 men. From 1st May we are promoting two further female IP lawyers to join the partnership so this ratio will become 10 to 6.  

In addition to looking for ways to support and develop female talent within the firm, we also recognise the importance of supporting female entrepreneurs, and this includes offering support to start-ups who need help understanding and protecting their IP rights. CMS primarily supports these start-up businesses through its inhouse accelerator CMS equIP which has a specific programme for female founders called #LeadHers. To hear from some wonderful female founders about their businesses, we encourage you to listen to the CMS series of #Leaders podcasts, available wherever you get your podcasts.  

Sadly there is a low level of awareness about IP rights among the creative industries who are the very people who create them. This is particularly the case in respect of the UK design sector’s recent surveys on design rights by the UK Intellectual Property Office, which showed that that nearly half of respondents were not aware that a design could be registered, and three-quarters indicated they had a poor knowledge of unregistered design protection.


Design is at the heart of innovation – and robust legal protection for design rights is vital for all types of designers and design-led businesses across all sectors, whether they are big or small. However, it is often small and medium-sized enterprises (many of which are female-led) which are particularly at risk of lacking the knowledge and resources to put the necessary protections in place. Many emerging young designers start their careers without having been taught about IP law on their undergraduate courses. Coupled with the fact that a clear majority of design university course graduates in the UK are female (statistics vary, but data from the UK Design Council puts this figure at around 65%), it is clear that design rights are currently not serving young female innovators in an optimal way. 

As part of our commitment to encouraging more effective use of IP rights, in 2022, CMS launched a dedicated Design Law Group comprising lawyers who focus on the protection and commercialisation of designs. The group itself is female-led, by IP associates Kaisa Patsalides and Nichola Mulvey, and fronted by Sarah Wright, CMS’ Head of IP.’


Tell us about CMS’ sponsorship of ND23

“From our experience of working with designers over many years, we are acutely aware that many of them are unaware of the legal rights that could help them protect their valuable designs. Small businesses and emerging new designers are particularly vulnerable to having their designs copied, especially if they don’t have the knowledge and resources to put the necessary protections in place” – Kaisa Patsalides, CMS’ lead associate in CMS’ Designs Team. 

‘As design law is complicated, CMS is running a campaign to promote better awareness and more effective use of design rights within the UK design industry, and is keen to support up-and-coming designers and young talent, to give them the confidence to protect their rights from an early stage – when it often matters the most. Across the two exhibition weeks, CMS will take part in the “ND Educates” programme through a series of panel sessions aimed at de-mystifying the law protecting designs. We will be providing some ‘top tips’ on how to avoid the most common pitfalls, with first-hand accounts from established designers sharing their personal experiences. We are also delighted to be sponsoring two Associate Prizes, which will recognise and reward exceptional design talent and growth potential.’

Please tell us more about The CMS Future Design Prize at ND23

The CMS Future Design Star Prize reflects our commitment to supporting up-and-coming designers and providing them with the knowledge and resources to protect their designs from an early stage in their careers.  

This prize is designed to provide two winning candidates with a ‘springboard’ package of free legal advice, access to CMS’ know-how and training resources, networking opportunities, and more – to give them the best start to their professional careers. The purpose of the award is to help the chosen winners secure core protections for their brand and key designs, and to support them in launching successful (and rip-off free!) design careers. The winners will gain opportunities to tap into CMS’ network of legal experts and industry contacts, to assist as they grow their own reputation and design business. 

More specifically, the award will encompass the following:

  • A free UK trade mark application for one brand name / product name [in up to 5 classes]*
  • A free EU trade mark application for one brand name / product name [in up to 5 classes]*
  • A free UK Design application for one product design * 
  • A free EU Design application for one product design * 

* CMS will fund the cost of these applications through to registration assuming they do not encounter any obstacles during the application process.  

  • A short-form non-disclosure agreement template, to help the winner protect their rights when sharing their designs/products to third parties 
  • Up to ten hours of free-of-charge legal advice from CMS’s top-ranked IP team (to be used within 12 months of receiving the prize) 
  • Access to CMS’s IP Foundation legal training programme, comprising around 6 hours of training, providing an overview of core aspects of IP law across all key topics (trade marks, designs, copyright, etc.) 
  • Use of CMS’ London offices for up to two meetings (lasting no more than 2 hours long each). 
  • Invitations to CMS client-facing conferences, seminars and webinars, with opportunities to meet and mingle with CMS’ network of clients and design industry experts.  

What are you looking for in your prize winner?

First and foremost, CMS is looking for a talented designer who has created an innovative design that is truly new when compared to anything already on the market.  

We are excited to find an enthusiastic young designer with entrepreneurial flair and aspirations for getting their design produced, and available to consumers working alongside a manufacturer or launching a direct to consumer business. CMS wants to find the right candidate who is able to make the most of the support and resources that the prize offers. 

The successful candidate should be able to articulate what is unique and different about their product or design, how and where it will be made and produced, what their target market is, and how their product would ideally be distributed (i.e. their route(s) to market). The design should ideally also have some consideration regarding sustainability. 

How do students put themselves forward for the prize?

If you are interested in putting yourself forward for this award, please click on this this link and provide the following information:  

  • your full name and an e-mail address where you are happy be contacted;  
  • the educational institute you attend, the course you are studying or have recently completed;  
  • images or photographs (as many as you like!) of the design you’d like to put forward for the award; 
  • a description of your design, and the date on which it was first shown in public; 
  • what your design’s unique selling point is; 
  • details on who you perceive as your target market; 
  • your planned route to market (manufacturing and distribution); and  
  • what sustainability considerations are reflected in your design.  

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Design Team specialists: Sarah Wright, Partner ([email protected]),  Kaisa Patsalides, Senior Associate ([email protected]) and Nichola Mulvey, Associate ([email protected]). 

To be the first to hear updates on New Designers 2023, sign up to the mailing list.