Protection of brands is the basic foundation of any business wishing to succeed whether in B2B or B2C. Consumer brands as well as company brands deserve to be well protected and looked after.

The minimum level of protection is usually the protection of the brand as a word trademark, if via-ble. However, the brand, concepts and their various elements may require other type of IP protec-tion much more than trademark protection could provide alone. Accordingly, marketing and legal teams should always be very careful in choosing the best IPR tools to serve their businesses.

A rising IP tool to consider for product and brand protection is the design rights. Designs have be-come an integral part of almost every brand due to their capability to vastly enhance and protect the mere visual word in social media and different apps as well as in UI’s and games. Utility of de-sign protection seem almost limitless in regard to these next generation line of business. The log-os, graphics, typographies, characters are very often protected by the use of design rights, while not forgetting the more conventional world of design rights i.e. physical products designs.

In addition to the various possibilities of using design rights together with the other IP rights, such as patents, trademarks and copyrights, the designs have recently become a bit more affordable also outside the EU. In the EU the design protection with Registered Community Design has been around for over a decade and is cost-efficient system with a fast registration procedure and, of ut-most importance, quick enforceability. Similarly to the trademark system, there is an international aspect of protection in regard to design rights: the Hague Agreement Geneva Act administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). A single application to the WIPO makes the ap-plication process easier and more cost-effective to companies doing business in the member states of the Hague Agreement. The attractiveness and applicability of the Hague Agreement in-creased substantially since from 13 May 2015 onwards the United States of America and Japan can be designated in the international design application. The accessions provide for companies easier access to protection in these two of the world’s largest economies and make it increasingly likely that also China and Russia will be joining the Agreement too.

In total, all companies – whether larger corporations or fresh start-ups – should take a heed of ever more practical design rights in order to fully utilise their IP portfolios. Combining design rights with trademarks and other IP enable companies to obtain comprehensive protection for their key prod-ucts and services and to benefit from them to a maximum extent.

So, with current expanding scope of international IPR agreements, it is important to re-assess the company’s IP strategy and its portfolio. Such assessment shall indicate whether some fine-tuning or further changes are required to maintain effective protection and to benefit from new prospects.