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A decade after their introduction, approximately three-quarters of a million European registered community designs (RCDs) have been filed, and recent court cases suggest firms regard them as important for competition. This paper reviews design protection in the European Union, discusses this legal instrument to protect designs and design innovations, and provides an overview of how RCDs are used by firms from different countries and industries. To develop a more detailed understanding of their usage, we also report an exploratory qualitative study on the use of RCDs by German firms in three industries: footwear, car manufacturing and tool-making. This revealed some important differences, notably between judicious filing and “all-you-can-file” strategies, which implies that future research using this instrument requires attention be paid to firm and industry level behaviors. We develop a set of propositions, and set out a research agenda.
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Protecting aesthetic innovations?
An exploration of the use of Registered Community Designs
Published in Research Policy 44 (2015), 11921206
Rainer Filitza, Joachim Henkela,b,*, Bruce S. Tetherc
a TUM School of Management, Technische Universität München
Arcisstr. 21, 80333 Munich, Germany, filitz | henkel, Tel.: +49 89 289 25741
b Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), London, United Kingdom
c Manchester Business School and Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester
Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6PB, United Kingdom,
* Corresponding author
Abstract: A decade after their introduction, approximately three-quarters of a million
European Registered Community Designs (RCDs) have been filed, and recent court
cases suggest firms regard them as important for competition. This paper reviews design
protection in the European Union, discusses this legal instrument to protect designs and
design innovations, and provides an overview of how RCDs are used by firms from
different countries and industries. To develop a more detailed understanding of their
usage, we also report an exploratory qualitative study on the use of RCDs by German
firms in three industries: footwear, car manufacturing and tool-making. This revealed
some important differences, notably between judicious filing and “all-you-can-file”
strategies, which implies that future research using this instrument requires attention be
paid to firm and industry level behaviors. We develop a set of propositions, and set out
a research agenda.
Keywords: design rights; product design; innovation; research agenda
1. Introduction
The significance of design, and competing through design, hit the headlines worldwide
when, in 2011, Apple accused Samsung of slavishly copying both aesthetic and technical
aspects of its iPhone and iPad products.
Apple filed a number of lawsuits against Samsung
worldwide, and succeeded in having an injunction placed on the sale of some Samsung
products in Germany. Among these lawsuits was one that alleged Samsung’s infringement of
Apple’s Registered Community Design (RCD No 000181607-0001) related to its iPad
products. The case was heard in the High Court in London in July 2012. While
acknowledging the two products to be similar with Samsung’s considered to be less cool
the judge ultimately found them to be insufficiently similar to constitute an infringement,
and therefore ruled in Samsung’s favor. The verdict, which had EU-wide jurisdiction, was
upheld on appeal in October 2012. A similar case reached the Supreme Court in The Hague,
which also found in Samsung’s favor.
That Apple, Samsung and others
are willing to spend considerable resources contesting
their rights to compete at least in part through the “look and feel” of their products testifies to
the significance of product form, aesthetics and styling, all attributes directly related to
design, and more particularly industrial design and ergonomics. Yet, perhaps surprisingly,
innovation studies have paid little attention to these matters. In Research Policy, for example,
there is only a smattering of papers that are directly concerned with design and product form.
A notable exception is Cappetta et al. (2006), who examine “stylistic innovation” directly and
relate this to the longitudinal development of the fine fashion industry. In other journals,
product design (Ravasi and Stigliani, 2012), design innovation (Rubera and Droge, 2013),
design newness (Talke et al., 2009), aesthetic innovation (Eisenman, 2013) and stylistic
innovation (Tran, 2010) have been receiving recent attention.
Mail Online, at
copying-iPhone-iPad-designs.html (last accessed: 30 June 2014).
Other celebrated cases of alleged infringement of registered designs include Procter & Gamble versus Reckitt
Benckiser (air freshener spray container 2007 & 2008) and Dyson versus Vax (vacuum cleaners 2011).
Hartwig (2007, 2008, 2009, 2012a), meanwhile, has collected more than 300 decisions on design protection
cases before European courts from diverse industries such as apparel, footwear, furniture, automotive, and
Design papers in Research Policy include Moultrie and Livesey’s (2014) study on design investments, Walsh’s
(1996) paper on “design, innovation and the boundaries of the firm,” and Sanderson and Uzumeri’s (1995)
study of how Sony competed through managing design and product families. Ulrich’s (1995) classic study on
the role of product architecture in manufacturing firms is also relevant, but deals primarily with the functional
or engineering aspects of design, rather than stylistic or aesthetic considerations (cf. Salter and Gann (2003);
Barlow and Köberle-Gaiser (2008); Gil and Tether (2011)).
We perceive that product form is an important yet relatively neglected aspect of how firms
compete, and a relatively neglected aspect of innovation. If innovation involves changes to
the characteristics of products (Saviotti and Metcalfe, 1984), then these characteristics should
embrace both the inner workings of the product and its external expression the latter
constituting aesthetic or stylistic innovations.
Innovation scholars also have a tradition of seeking out new sources of data to provide
new insights. In the early 1990s efforts were made to develop an output based measure of
innovation drawn from the announcement of new products in the trade press (Coombs et al.,
1996; Kleinknecht, 1993).
Perhaps the dataset of European Registered Community Designs
(RCDs), over three-quarters of a million of which have now been filed since registration
began in April 2003, offers a new opportunity to complement patent data and revive the
object based approach, especially with respect to design, aesthetic or stylistic innovations, all
of which may be particularly significant in the “lower-tech” sectors of the economy.
This paper therefore has four aims: (i) to provide an introduction to design protection and
specifically RCDs; (ii) to explore the use of RCDs and firms’ rationales behind it; (iii) to
assess their suitability as a source of potential information about design innovation and how
firms compete through design; and (iv) to develop a research agenda for further studies of
RCDs and design protection more generally.
To contextualize the study, we begin with an overview of past research on design
protection, finding this to be rather limited (Section 2). We then (in Section 3) outline the
legal background to design protection in Europe, discussing its emergence and how it has
recently been harmonized across the European Union. This section includes a summary of the
various options available to creators of designs with regard to their protection. Section 4 then
presents a descriptive analysis on patterns of RCD use across various countries, industries and
firms. To complement this statistical data, we engaged in an exploratory study of how and
why RCDs are actually used by firms. To this end, Section 5 reports a qualitative study
undertaken across three industries (footwear, car manufacturing and tool-making) and here we
discuss the findings of interviews with managers of German firms and their legal advisors.
This qualitative study indicates that while RCDs have potential as an indicator of design
Note that this “object based approach,” where the primary unit of analysis is the product, or design, has
received little attention of late however, in part because data is difficult to gather. In contrast, the “intermediate
object based approach” which uses patent data has enjoyed great popularity, especially since these data became
easily available. But this turns a blind eye to innovation in design. The “subject based approach” (where the
primary unit of analysis is the firm) has also blossomed due to vast quantities and numerous rounds of
Community Innovation Survey (CIS) data produced by Eurostat and various national statistical agencies, but
CIS data provides little insight into design innovation.
innovation (amongst other things), they need to be examined with caution, and ideally with an
understanding of the prevailing industry and firm level norms, as well as of legal issues. This
section includes a set of testable propositions derived from our findings that concern the
utilization of RCDs by firms. Section 6 then outlines a set of issues for further research on
design protection in general, and the use of RCDs in particular. We perceive that there are a
number of rich and practically important topics that can be examined in relation to RCDs, and
invite others to join us in this endeavor. Brief conclusions close the paper (Section 7).
2. Existing empirical research on design protection
In contrast to the substantial literature on technological innovation and patent protection,
design innovation and design protection have attracted little scholarly attention from
economists and management scholars. To our knowledge, the first systematic empirical
studies examining the use of design protection were published in 2011 (Bascavusoglu-Moreau
and Tether, 2011; BOP, 2011; Moultrie and Livesey, 2011) and 2012 (Ahmetoglu and
Chamorro-Premuzic, 2012; Thompson et al., 2012). These studies are preliminary and
focused on the UK, but they point to the as yet untapped potential of design rights as an
empirical tool, as well as the need for further research in this area.
In an initial attempt to understand how design rights are used, Moultrie and Livesey
(2011) surveyed a cross-sectoral sample of 32 UK firms and 10 design agencies. They report
the level of awareness and utilization of design rights in the UK to be relatively low.
Ahmetoglu and Chamorro-Premuzic (2012) extended this by conducting a psychometric
analysis of survey data drawn from 63 UK companies, and finding that attitudes towards
design rights were related to firms’ design innovation activities. They interpret their findings
as showing the importance of effective design protection for promoting design innovation.
BOP (2011), meanwhile, traced differences in the extent to which French, German and UK
firms protect their product designs through registration. They attribute the low level of
registration in the UK to legal and cultural traditions, and to the relative weakness of the
manufacturing sector. Based on a matched-pair methodology, Bascavusoglu-Moreau and
Tether (2011) examined performance differences between firms holding, or not holding,
designs registered nationally in the UK and designs registered at the EU-level. Interestingly, a
productivity premium associated with holding registered designs disappeared a few years
after the introduction of European RCDs, suggesting firms had adapted to the changing
landscape of legal design protection over the period of the study (1997-2007).
Other scholars have touched on the issue of design protection. In particular, design
protection has been included in studies on the use and effectiveness of various appropriability
mechanisms (e.g., Arundel, 2001; Sattler, 2003), though it has been left out in others (e.g.,
Cohen et al., 2000; Levin et al., 1987).
The studies explicitly mentioning design protection
(in general, rather than RCDs in particular) are mainly those based on the Community
Innovation Surveys (CIS) (e.g., Gallié and Legros, 2012; Laursen and Salter, 2005; Mairesse
and Mohnen, 2004; Mercer, 2004; Robson and Haigh, 2008; Robson and Kenchatt, 2010;
Sattler, 2003; Thomä and Bizer, 2013). Most of this work focuses on technological
innovation, and firms’ choices between patents and informal modes of protection.
Nevertheless, some findings with respect to the use of design protection can be identified.
First, in terms of its use, design protection is ranked, on average, at a level similar to that
of other formal IP rights, such as trademarks and patents, and there are often strong
correlations between the extent of use of these different legal IP rights (Gallié and Legros,
2012; Sattler, 2003). Analysis of CIS data indicates that innovating firms make greater use of
design rights than non-innovating firms (Livesey and Moultrie, 2008) a pattern also
observed for patents and trademarks. However, Mairesse and Mohnen (2004) find that design
protection is the only appropriability mechanism that is used more intensively among
innovating firms in “low-tech” than “high-tech” industries, while Gemser and Wijnberg’s
(2001) interviews with design leaders in the Dutch and Italian furniture industries suggest that
design rights are the most effective legal protection mechanism in this “design-intensive”
Second, citing the need for innovation indicators that emphasize creativity and design
rather than technological innovation, some researchers have suggested examining registered
designs. The conjecture is that the registration of a design, as a patent application, implies that
the firm considers it has created something new, and attributes some value to it (Rogers,
1998). Alcaide-Marzal and Tortajada-Esparza (2007) propose that registered designs, along
with other indicators, could improve the assessment of innovation in traditional sectors (such
as footwear, textiles or furniture) where product aesthetics is a significant contributor to
competitiveness. Along similar lines, Livesey and Moultrie (2008) criticize the dominance of
A common finding from surveys of firms is that informal modes of protection in particular, lead time,
complementary assets, and secrecy are considered to be more effective than legal exclusion rights, except in
discrete technology industries such as chemicals, although many firms combine legal and informal modes of
protection. Recent studies in industries where no form of legal IP protection (except possibly trademarks) is
applicable gourmet cuisine (Di Stefano et al., 2013; Fauchart and von Hippel, 2008), magicians (Loshin,
2010), and comedians (Oliar and Sprigman, 2008) have extended this list to comprise social norms as an
informal means of IP protection.
patents as a proxy for innovation, as this leads to an overemphasis on technological
innovation. They consider that examining both design registrations and trademarks might
counteract this, and point to the virtues of these indicators closeness to market, accessibility,
and timeliness.
Third, some studies have incorporated registered designs into measures of firms’ strengths
in design innovation (Rubera and Droge, 2013) or the performance of countries’ innovation
systems (PRO INNO Europe, 2012). Our empirical exploration into the use of RCDs, which
is presented below, adds to this, but also points to the need to fully understand the instrument
before engaging in quantitative empirical analysis.
3. Background: the legal protection of designs in Europe
The legal protection of product designs is inherently different from that of technological
inventions. In this section, we first outline the system of design protection in Europe, and then
introduce, in more detail, the main characteristics of design registration in Europe, and
Registered Community Designs (RCDs) in particular; RCDs are just one option available to
owners seeking to protect their designs in Europe.
3.1. Design protection in Europe: the institutional setting
European design law has a long and complex history, dating back to the 18th century. In
1787 England and Scotland extended copyright protection to textile designs, the same year
that France introduced a statute to protect weavings, garments, and furniture under the
auspices of copyright law. During the course of industrialization, national design laws were
amended to cover the shape and ornamentation of any article of manufacture. Consequently,
design protection became largely decoupled from the creative or artistic requirements
imposed by copyright laws. National design registries were established (e.g., in the UK in
1839 and Germany in 1876) and distinct design rights specified, such that by the late 20th
century multiple different design protection schemes were operating in Europe.
Today, the landscape of design protection in the EU has been transformed by two
substantial harmonization efforts. First, a Design Directive (98/71/EC) was passed in 1998
which mandated that all EU Member States provide harmonized national protection of
designs by means of national registration procedures.
This directive also provided a unified
definition of design, namely the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting
This fell short of a complete harmonization of EU law. For example, the protection of spare parts was left to the
Member States’ discretion.
from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colors, shape, texture and/or materials
of the product itself and/or its ornamentation. Designs that are new, i.e., are not identical to
designs already made public, and that have an individual character such that an “informed
user” would perceive the design as being different from prior designs are eligible for
protection. The maximum term of protection is 25 years, subject to payment of renewal fees
every five years.
The Community Design Regulation (EC 6/2002) marked the second step towards
harmonization. This entered into force in 2002, and created two EU-wide design rights: the
RCD, which corresponds to the aforementioned national right specified under the Design
Directive; and the Unregistered Community Design (UCD), which provides automatic
protection of any new and individual design against copying for three years from the date of
disclosure in the EU. The UCD was intended to provide short-term protection for products
with a short lifespan, such as fashionable apparel. While RCDs and UCDs share the same
requirements and scope of protection, registration provides the proprietor the exclusive right
to use the design, i.e., there is no need to prove copying in case of infringement.
National design protection mechanisms have however been maintained alongside the
European system of Community Designs. And owners can also register their designs under
the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs which is operated
by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Hague System essentially
simplifies the process of obtaining design protection in a number of jurisdictions by means of
a single application filed with WIPO. The EU became a member of the Hague System in
January 2008, so EU-wide protection may be obtained by registering through WIPO, but not
all Member States are signatories. Other non-members include the United States and Japan,
meaning that the available design protection needs to be applied for directly in those
To further complicate matters, designs (or some aspects of them) may qualify for
protection under other statutes, such as trademarks, copyright, and unfair competition law.
Below, we summarize the options available to an owner of a design seeking protection within
the European Union.
Option 1: do not register the design. This option means not registering the design
nationally or internationally, in which case the owner can draw on a combination of (i) EU
protection, afforded for three years to Unregistered Community Designs; (ii) unregistered
national protection where this exists (some countries, including the UK, provide unregistered
“design rights”); (iii) relying on other legal instruments, such as (registered and unregistered)
trademarks, copyrights and unfair competition laws to protect designs; (iv) relying on
complementary assets (Teece, 1986), such as branding, quality of manufacturing, or
reputation; (v) relying on social norms in the community against copying (e.g., Di Stefano et
al., 2013; Fauchart and von Hippel, 2008; Raustiala and Sprigman, 2012).
Not registering is logically more likely if: courts are unlikely to uphold the rights or
impose effective punishments on infringers; the design is considered to have a short shelf life
(<4 years); unregistered national and EU protection is considered effective (or as effective as
registered rights); the owner has strong complementary assets; and/or there are strong social
norms against copying in the design community.
Option 2: register the design nationally. Since 1998, all EU countries have been
required to maintain a national register of designs, and the protection available is very similar,
although not identical, in each Member State, as well as to that provided by RCDs. An owner
who wished to obtain protection in all Member States could conceivably register the design
with each national office. A benefit of this is that any invalidity procedures would have to be
undertaken in each Member State separately; the disadvantages are the much higher costs and
complexity of doing this. Moreover, the option of registering nationally (rather than
internationally) is likely to be pursued if: (i) the owner is only interested in protecting the
design (beyond the protection available under Option 1) in one country. This is more likely to
be the case with large than small countries, if the creator of the design only serves one
national market, and where designs have a strongly national character (i.e., national tastes are
idiosyncratic); and (ii) the application and renewal fees for national registration are
substantially lower than for international registration (which also provides national
In Germany, for example, the fee for an electronic application with up to 10 designs is
60. This remarkably low fee for such a large country has encouraged substantial national
registration of designs in Germany; a country that also makes the most extensive use of
registration at the EU-level (Table 1). By contrast, registering a single design in Denmark
costs 1,200DKK approximately 160 almost half the cost of registering a single RCD with
jurisdiction across the whole of the EU, moreover there is no discount for simultaneously
registering multiple designs, and electronic filing is also not currently available. This makes
national filing relatively unattractive in Denmark, and the number of designs registered
nationally in Denmark has fallen from over 1,000 in 2002 (prior to the introduction of RCDs)
to just 101 in 2013. Meanwhile, Denmark is one of the most prolific users of the RCD system,
especially when the size of its economy is controlled for.
Option 3: register the design internationally. The third option is to register the design
internationally, either directly with the European Commission’s Office of Harmonization for
the Internal Market (OHIM) which administrates RCDs, or indirectly through the WIPO’s
Hague System. Although slightly more costly, the latter has the advantage that as well as
registering with OHIM, the applicant can simultaneously register the design with over 50
other jurisdictions without the need to translate the documentation. We now discuss RCDs in
more detail.
3.2. Registered Community Designs
OHIM, the EU’s Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market, began registering
Community Designs on 1st April, 2003. Applicants may submit a single design, or multiple
independent designs within the same Locarno class.
The key requirements for protection are
“novelty” and “individual character.” The novelty requirement is typically met if no identical
prior design has been disclosed, where the meaning of “identical” is specified in Article 5.2 of
the Community Design Regulation (EC 6/2002): “Designs shall be deemed to be identical if
their features differ only in immaterial details.Whether a design has an individual character
is more difficult to establish. According to Article 6.1 of the Community Design Regulation
(EC 6/2002), “a design shall be considered to have individual character if the overall impression
it produces on the informed user differs from the overall impression produced on such a user by
any design which has been made available to the public.” Article 6.2 specifies that “in assessing
individual character, the degree of freedom of the designer in developing the design shall be taken
into consideration.” This statement formulates the concept of reciprocity in European design
law (Hartwig, 2012b): In areas with a high concentration of designs and/or where there the
designer has few degrees of freedom (due to the technical function of the product), minor
differences in appearance may produce a different overall impression on the informed user.
Conversely, in areas with a low concentration of designs and/or where designers have
considerable freedom from technical constraints, major differences are required to create a
different overall impression on the informed user. Analogously, the scope of RCD protection
can be large or small, depending on the design’s distance from the existing design corpus.
The Locarno classification indicates the product categories to which the designs are intended to be applied.
Protection is not however confined by the designs’ classification. For a complete list of product classes (n=32)
and subclasses (n=219) specified in the Locarno Classification (9th Edition) see (last accessed: 30 June 2014).
Several types of subject matters are excluded from protection by RCDs: design features
that are entirely dictated by the technical function of the product
or that must be reproduced
in their exact form to permit a mechanical connection; component parts of complex products
that are not visible during their use; spare-parts; and designs contrary to public policy and
accepted principles of morality.
A core feature of the RCD system (and indeed registration with individual EU Member
States) is that these substantive requirements for protection are not examined prior to
registration (which contrasts with U.S design patents).
RCDs are assumed to be valid unless
and until successfully challenged, either by an invalidity proceeding put before OHIM or by a
counterclaim in infringement proceedings before national courts, which have EU-wide
jurisdiction. As they are not examined, RCD applications are typically published within just a
few days of filing. Non-examination increases uncertainty about the validity of RCDs, both
for applicants and third parties, and provides room for strategic actions as parties may register
designs that should not qualify for protection.
RCDs are cheap, relative to trademarks and patents. The fees for protecting a single design
for five years are 350, with renewal fees to be paid every five years. Applicants can submit
up to 99 individual designs in the same electronic filing; the 2nd to 10th design each cost 175;
while each further registration costs 80.
4. Patterns of RCD use
Our exploration into the use of RCDs begins with a descriptive analysis of data from the
OHIM register, to identify trends and peculiarities in filing activities at the level of countries,
product categories, and firms. We focus on the nine-year period following the
institutionalization of RCDs in April, 2003. Over that period, the number of designs submitted
has grown markedly, from a little over 40,000 in 2003 (over nine months) to almost 80,000 in
2011 (see Fig. 1); with a 4.9% average annual growth rate in applications per month. The
modest decline in 2008/09 probably reflects the general macroeconomic downturn, after
which design registration began to rise again. In total, 607,006 designs were registered until
If the same technical effect may be achieved with any different form, the design features are not excluded from
protection (Schlotelburg, 2006).
The difference may not be all that large, though. Crouch (2010) calculates an allowance rate for U.S. design
patent applications above 90%, and argues that the examination system is operating as a de facto registration
system. On the other hand, it is not clear to what extent examination deters the submission of designs for which
protection would likely not be granted.
10 (last accessed: 30 June 2014).
the end of 2011, including 77,663 single (49%) and 80,376 multiple (51%) applications. As
each design in the register represents an independent property right, we henceforth count each
design submitted, rather than applications.
Insert Fig. 1 about here
Table 1 provides a breakdown of cumulative design filings (20032011) by residency of
applicants. As expected, the large western EU countries have been most active in registering
RCDs, with Germany clearly ahead, followed by Italy and France. Together with the UK and
Spain, the Big Five” EU countries account for 60% of all registrations. Owners based in the
U.S. are the most prolific amongst non-EU users of the system, while Japan, Switzerland and
China also feature prominently.
In terms of RCDs per GDP, several smaller countries with populations below ten million
achieve high levels of registrations. Apart from Luxembourg, which is the legal home of
many multinationals, strong performers include Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, and
This simple analysis begs important questions, such as why, after controlling for
the size of their respective economies, do German and Italian firms register more than twice
as many designs with OHIM than French firms, and three times as many as UK firms (16.67)?
Explanatory factors will likely include industry structure and propensity to export, the relative
costs of registering nationally or at EU-level, and the attitude of courts in each country to
upholding design rights. As one reviewer of this paper up it: Germany is widely
acknowledged as having the best legal infrastructure, with greater rights to the firm being
copied than to the copier. This isn’t the case in all countries In the UK for example, many
firms feel that the legal system is not supportive of challenges and so the value of the right is
Insert Table 1 about here
The strong performance of the Scandinavian countries may partly be explained by their reputation for design
innovation and the importance of design to these countries’ research and policy agendas (SEE, 2011).
Fig. 2 compares the geographic origin of design, patent and trademark applications under
European schemes. The Big Five” EU countries account for a larger share of registered
designs than Community Trademarks (51%), or patents filed at the EPO (32%).
Several countries notably Italy, Spain, the new Member States, and China exhibit
significantly higher shares for design filings than for patent applications. This relative
strength in terms of RCDs may in part reflect the (lower-tech) industrial structure and
orientation of businesses in these countries, but in the case of China and the new Member
States we also perceive evidence for the increasing global trend towards design registrations
across middle-income countries.
In China and the new Member States (except Hungary and
Lithuania) annual growth in RCD applications surpassed annual GDP growth over the period
20042011, and, according to experts interviewed in our field study (see Section 5),
companies in middle-income countries increasingly perceive registered designs as an easy-to-
handle alternative to patent protection, providing an inexpensive form of legal exclusion right
for new product offerings.
Insert Fig. 2 about here
Variations in RCD usage are also evident in terms of the distribution of applications
across product categories. Table 2 shows the ten most-cited Locarno classes accounting for
two-thirds of total applications over the period 20032011. Three design-intensive categories
top this list: furnishing (Class 6), clothing (Class 2), and packaging (Class 9). The clothing
category, which is dominated by footwear, stands out as the most dynamic, with annual
growth in applications exceeding 10% between 2004 and 2011. This is surprising, as the
category is dominated by typically short-lived fashion items, for which Unregistered
Community Design protection was intended.
Interestingly, the use of RCDs seems to be particularly widespread in so called low-
tech,” or “supplier dominated” (Pavitt, 1984) industries, characterized by low R&D intensities
and mature markets (Robertson et al., 2009). The furniture (Class 6), clothing (Class 2),
RCDs, Community Trademarks, and patents granted by the EPO are largely, but not fully comparable in terms
of their regional scope. The EPO can grant patents also for states that are not members of the EU, among them
Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.
The global list of top 20 offices in terms of design applications includes nine offices located in middle-income
countries. Especially in China design patent filings have increased dramatically over the last decade,
accounting for more than half of total design right applications worldwide in 2011 (WIPO, 2012).
packaging (Class 9), sanitary appliance (Class 23), and household goods (Class 7) industries
are all low-tech (HirschKreinsen et al., 2006), and this pattern of registration suggests that
design-related activities may be a significant driver of firms’ innovation in these sectors
(Santamaría et al., 2009). “Higher-tech” industries are however still prominently represented,
with designs attributed to Classes 14 (electronic equipment) and 12 (transportation),
indicating that the significance of design is not confined to “low-tech” sectors.
Insert Table 2 about here
Discerning sectoral patterns from the analysis of Locarno classes is challenging because
individual categories are highly aggregated and do not map easily into SIC defined industries.
To more accurately identify the frequent users of RCDs, we therefore use firm-level
application numbers after consolidating applicant names.
Table 3 is derived from this, and
ranks the top 25 owners of RCDs by total registrations between 2003 and 2011. Rieker, one of
Europe’s biggest shoe manufacturers, heads the list, with 4,482 filings (although it did not
start registering RCDs until 2006). Three other footwear companies are also in the top 25
(Nike, Gabor, Jimmy Choo). Rieker and Gabor in particular make extensive use of multiple
applications. Also prominent among the top 25 are large electronics companies (Samsung,
Sony, Philips, Apple, Panasonic), and to a lesser extent manufacturers of apparel (Creations
Nelson, Miniconf, Pierre Balmain). The sudden decrease in Procter & Gamble’s registrations
after 2007 is explained by that company’s switch to the indirect registrations via WIPO.
Various questions arise from the firm-level data. In particular, why do some owners make
so heavy use of RCDs, while others do not? To what extent do product and industry
parameters determine the use of RCDs, and to what extent are firm-specific behavioral factors
Of initially 61,051 distinct names in the OHIM database, 4,595 duplicates were identified and harmonized.
Variations in spelling of applicant names result from inconsistent naming conventions, spelling mistakes, or
abbreviations. This problem occurs routinely within large datasets of IP rights (e.g., Thoma et al., 2010). We
consolidated applicant names following a three-step procedure based on (i) an automatic cleaning code (the
sequence of cleaning operations builds on work by Thoma et al. (2010, p. 18) and was implemented in VBA),
(ii) a process of manual harmonization of spelling variants (owner names were manually screened for
duplicates in alphabetical order; additional database records, such as address details, were taken into account),
and (iii) an approximated string matching technique (the textual similarity between each pair of applicant
names was calculated using a token-based Jaccard similarity function (Chaudhuri et al., 2003); records were
manually checked for being duplicates if their similarity was above a certain threshold).
Applications via WIPO are not recorded in the OHIM database, but make up less than 5% of total RCD
filings. We exclude them from the analysis.
the driver? While factors such as home country size, the relative cost of national versus EU
registration, and distinctiveness of national tastes may explain some of the variation, they are
unlikely to provide a full explanation. Furthermore, given that applications are not examined,
how does the quality of RCDs vary between designs submitted by heavy users (usually as
multiple applications) and more selective applicants (who often submit single applications)?
To gain some insight into these questions, and to more generally understand firms’ use of
RCDs we undertook a qualitative study of German firms active in three different industries.
Insert Table 3 about here
5. A cross-industry study of the use of RCDs by German firms
Here, based on a qualitative analysis of a cross-industry sample of German firms, we
explore the use of RCDs in greater detail. We emphasize that this is an exploratory study,
based on owners in one country Germany which, Luxembourg aside, has the highest level
of European design registrations even after controlling for the size of the economy. We focus
on German firms only to provide a consistent setting (while noting the good legal
infrastructure and relatively high levels of awareness and knowledge regarding legal design
protection in Germany (BOP, 2011)). The extent to which the behaviors found among
German owners are also found in other Member States is a matter for further research.
We use a case study approach because it is particularly appropriate for supplementing or
illuminating quantitative data gathered from the same empirical setting (Edmondson and
Mcmanus, 2007) and for understanding as yet underexplored phenomena within their real-life
context (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2009). Specifically, our fieldwork provides some early
insights into how product and industry parameters as well as firm-specific behavioral motives
interact with properties of the legal instrument in influencing firms’ use of RCDs.
5.1. Case selection and method
Consistent with the recognized standards of qualitative research, we selected cases (in our
context firms, active in three diverse industries) and informants purposefully (Pratt, 2009),
choosing to focus on firms in the footwear, automotive, and power & gardening tools
(henceforth: tools) industries. We anticipated that behavior with regard to RCDs would vary
among firms both within and between industries, and followed a strategy of diverse sampling
in order to increase the scope of the findings and to facilitate clear pattern recognition
(Eisenhardt, 1989).
The footwear industry was included as a design-intensive sector which is an extreme case
in terms of its use of RCDs (over 33,000 filings in Class 2.04, making it the largest subclass
in terms of RCDs filed). While design-intensive, the high level of design registration activity
in this sector is particularly interesting because shoe designs are typically short lived, being
replaced after only a few months, and therefore unregistered design protection should be
appropriate. By contrast, furniture products the largest top-level Locarno class (see Table 2)
tend to be longer lived, making the registration of designs more understandable.
We also included two more technology-oriented industries: automotive and tools. Car
manufacturers are now frequent users of RCDs, with 15,000 filings in Classes 12.08, 12.16
and 26.06. While the appearance of cars has a long-appreciated role in product market
success, tool manufacturers have typically been slower to appreciate the benefits of industrial
design. However, to date over 5,000 RCDs have been filed in Classes 8.01, 8.02, 8.03 and
15.03. As evidenced in our study, imitation of product appearance is considered a serious
problem in all three industries, showing that RCDs are potentially relevant.
Data was primarily gathered through semi-structured interviews held with company
executives and IP lawyers, and the guiding questions concerned firms’ own use of RCDs and
the behavior of other firms in their respective industries. Aspects covered included application
and enforcement behaviors, filing motives, and the perceived effectiveness of RCDs. To put
the RCD-related statements into perspective, we also asked about alternative means of
appropriation and the role that design plays in innovation and competition. The semi-
structured approach allowed us to pursue a consistent line of inquiry, while leaving flexibility
to address promising topics and themes as these arose during conversations (Rubin and Rubin,
We sought responses from key informants who were knowledgeable about legal design
protection and who participated in strategic decisions regarding this form of IP protection
within their organizations. Most interviewees held senior roles, such as directors of IPR
departments, or partners in law firms. From the RCD database, we selected firms that were
among the top German owners (or their legal representatives) of RCDs in the three focal
industries. A group of less active applicants was also included for comparison. Of the 50
potential informants contacted, 23 participated in the study.
Informants reported their insights into certain occurrences. However, these reports may be
subject to sources of systematic bias and random errors, and several tactics were employed to
alleviate these problems (Huber and Power, 1985; Kumar et al., 1993). First, we cross-
checked the information obtained from company representatives and IP lawyers against each
other, as the two types of actor view the focal phenomenon from different perspectives.
Second, we triangulated interview and RCD data for cross validation (Jick, 1979). To ensure a
tight connection between qualitative and quantitative evidence, all informants were presented
with a detailed, individual benchmark analysis of RCD statistics during the course of the
interview. Moreover, interview statements were challenged against a range of secondary
source materials, including court decisions on design protection cases, company and industry
reports, conference presentations, and newspaper articles. Finally, informants were provided
with the opportunity to review the transcripts in order to support a free flow of information.
A total of 23 interviews were conducted over a period of six months (see Table 5,
Appendix), including eight representatives of the footwear industry, seven from automotive,
four from tools, and four general experts. Twice, informants invited colleagues to the
interviews who brought additional expertise. Five of the interviews involved two researchers
to mitigate interviewer bias and to enhance the creative potential of the study. All
conversations were held in German, seven in person, and 16 by telephone; they lasted
between 48 and 105 minutes. In total, 27 hours of interviews were recorded and transcribed.
Throughout the fieldwork, we engaged in an iterative process of data collection, data
condensation, and drawing conclusions to guide further data collection (Edmondson and
Mcmanus, 2007; Eisenhardt, 1989). The interview transcripts were coded at different levels of
analysis, ranging from the descriptive to the inferential (Miles and Huberman, 1994). In
accordance with the iterative nature of the analysis, codes were continuously reassessed and
refined. The final coding scheme, which was implemented in the NVivo 10 software package,
consisted of 207 categories on six hierarchical levels, hosting nearly 1500 text segments. The
inferential codes facilitated the identification of patterns, regularities, and relationships,
building toward an integrated understanding of each firm’s behavior with regard to RCDs and
IP protection more generally. When the local dynamics of the diverse industrial settings
became apparent, we moved to cross-case comparisons by organizing coded text segments in
matrices, looking for similarities, differences, and overarching patterns across industries and
different types of actors (Eisenhardt, 1989; Miles and Huberman, 1994).
5.2. Results and discussion
We present our findings in four parts: (i) a brief characterization of the use of RCDs
within each industry; (ii) product and industry parameters; (iii) how prevalent filing motives
affect their usage, and (iv) offering a set of propositions concerning the use of RCDs by firms.
We summarize the core aspects of the analysis, along with additional quotes, in Table 4.
5.2.1. Characterization of RCD usage
There is substantial variation in firms’ propensities to register designs, both across and
within industries. Based on the fieldwork we were able to better understand these differences
(Table 4, A).
The footwear industry can be divided into two camps, each representing a fundamentally
different approach towards RCD usage: one group registered independent of quality
considerations virtually all of their designs, and did so in multiple applications several times
per year. One IP lawyer characterized a client’s application strategy:
They register more or less their entire collections, once in spring and once in
winter. Because you can’t make a choice, actually. […] And if you register all of it,
then at least you haven’t forgotten anything.
This group included some of the heaviest registrants of RCDs, and acknowledged design
protection, and RCDs in particular, held a central role in their IPR portfolios. The second
group of footwear companies registered very few items, and relied heavily on unregistered
Car manufacturers showed much less variation in registration behavior across firms.
Differences mainly arose from how the multiple individual design characteristics of a car
(covering the exterior, interior, partial views, wheels, etc.) were protected through filings.
Generally, these firms were driven by the desire to secure strong, “bulletproof” proprietary
rights, which they perceived as important complements to trademark and patent protection.
Among tool-makers, a strong norm had emerged regarding the role of RCDs in IPR
portfolios and related filing strategies. Here, the widely diffused practice is to make a few
carefully considered RCD applications for each new product to gain “backup” rights most
valuable when other forms of IPRs are ineffective. For both car- and tool-makers, RCD
protection was primarily directed towards protection against copying by lower-end firms, as
imitation of product designs among direct competitors was typically not an issue.
Below, we shed light on how firms’ divergent behaviors regarding RCD usage, and in
particular the choice between an “all-you-can-file” strategy (which can result in vast
portfolios of registered designs) and the more parsimonious approach, can be linked to
Interviewees emphasized that in higher-market segments the need to differentiate through design, and the fear
of sanctions when disregarding fairness norms held by rivals and consumers act as powerful barriers to design
imitation. The fashion industry, including footwear, is special in the sense that imitation is arguably a core
activity of the industry. In fact, most designers, at all levels of practice, accept imitation to some extent (e.g.,
Hilton et al., 2004).
product and industry characteristics, and the behavioral motives underlying the registration
5.2.2. Effects of product and industry parameters
Our findings suggest that the influence of product and industry parameters on RCD usage
becomes particularly apparent through the concentration of designs in a particular product
category (Table 4, B). Whether design spaces are crowded or not affects ambiguity and effort
associated with assessing the novelty of a design and, consequently, the most effective way to
use RCDs. Design spaces may contain a vast number of similarly looking product variants for
several reasons. Among the potential causes are frequent product introductions, intense
competition between numerous firms, and dominant product architectures which typically
specify a product’s archetypical form and thus force firms to differentiate along the (limited)
remaining degrees of freedom (e.g., Bijker, 1995; Eisenman, 2013). Moreover, convergence
on designs that are in fashion (e.g., Hemphill and Suk, 2009) or best comply with technical,
ergonomic, and regulatory constraints (e.g., Bloch, 1995) frequently contributes to the
crowding of a design space.
In such crowded design spaces of which footwear is a prominent example searches for
prior art are inherently difficult and costly. Because of the unexamined nature of RCDs,
applicants have to decide whether or not to conduct pre-registration searches in order to
increase certainty about the validity of the design right they seek. Among the footwear
companies, many applicants did not do this, instead registering blindly:
But when I’m confronted with such a heap, I just can say: Okay, blind, let’s do it.
Proponents of this “all-you-can-file” approach generally agreed that it is easy to register
designs without identifying prior art, as registration shifts the burden of proof to opponents.
Proving invalidity, particularly of shoe designs, was described as difficult and resource-
intensive. As a result, the RCD register in footwear has become cluttered with designs that do
not fulfill the novelty requirement and even more with designs that are unused (i.e., registered
seasonal shoe designs already withdrawn from the market). To some extent, the problem of
cluttering is mitigated by the concept of reciprocity which implies that the scope of protection
is narrow in this context.
In the car and tool-making industries, searches for prior art were mainly considered
effective and are indeed performed, though difficulties were experienced for some component
parts, including wheels, tires, and saw blades fields characterized by a high concentration of
We do, of course, verify beforehand whether such parts exist. Not doing so would
be reckless. (Company)
Car manufacturers typically pursue international design protection strategies. Besides
registering an RCD, they would often file a new design in jurisdictions that have an office
examination (such as the U.S. or Japan) that checks its uniqueness, in particular compared to
the applicant’s own earlier designs:
In fact, we are our own greatest enemy. [Before filing in the U.S.] we analyze, in
particular, our own prior designs. And hence become more confident in our
European or German design rights. (Company)
The upfront effort devoted to searches for prior art in the automotive and tool-making
industries made informants feel more confident about the validity and scope of protection of
their own RCDs, and the validity of rivals RCDs.
5.2.3. Effects of filing motives
Firms intending to selectively register high-quality RCDs unanimously emphasized the
prevention of imitation as their primary filing motive (Table 4, C). This suggests that for these
firms the development of unique designs is an important precursor to the act of filing RCDs,
and that the existence of RCDs encourages the development of unique designs. These
companies reported good experiences with enforcing RCDs; indeed, even the possibility of
legal action against infringement of RCDs deterred imitators to a significant extent.
In footwear, registration alone was not expected to deter imitators, since the cluttered
register of designs is rarely monitored. Thus, firms did resort to enforcement of RCDs as a
frequently used means to exclude both direct rivals and lower-end companies from adopting
successful shoe designs. Without exception, interviewees noted that the harmonization of
European design law had ushered in an era characterized by stronger, more easily enforced
design rights.
While the prevention of imitation motive for filing dominated, we also heard about
other motivations mainly in combination with the “all-you-can-file” approach. Specifically,
the inherent difficulty in identifying prior art in crowded design spaces combined with the
unexamined nature of registration facilitated strategic, arguably abusive, uses of RCDs. For
example, some footwear companies knowingly registered and sought to enforce designs that
they knew did not qualify for RCD protection:
In some cases, we’ve protected old shoes as new again, and then admonished
others. And no one could prove that this has been more or less a classic 20 years
ago. That’s the old problem, because no one has access to the archives. (Lawyer)
One large footwear company was even accused by several informants of filing imitated
shoe designs to preempt infringement suits from third parties. Another put retailers under
pressure by using RCDs, as one lawyer explained:
[…] and one goes to the retailer and says: It’s protected by design rights, you can
only buy it from us. The retailer is afraid and answers: Okay, […] I don’t want to
get into trouble, I buy it from you. (Lawyer)
We could not however affirm that the low cost of RCD applications encourages
companies to register more broadly than is necessary to protect their designs for example,
encouraging the registration of designs that the company has no intention of producing, and
registering instead to block or inconvenience competitors. Informants made clear that such
attempts are generally ineffective because alternative designs can usually be developed quite
easily. As one interviewee explained concerning the tools industry:
It’s amazing and that’s what we always see when we’re too close to our
competitors’ designs – how the ambition and fantasy of our designers are suddenly
spurred. Two days later we get a marvelously drawn, alternative design that we
can approve without any doubt. (Lawyer)
Finally, several informants pointed to the growing interest in registered designs for
improving the firm’s bargaining position in legal disputes. Other strategic motives are
conceivable, but at least in our empirical context not prevalent.
5.2.4. Summary and propositions
While our interview sample is exploratory, and may not be representative of firms either
in the industries studied, of firms in other industries, or of RCD owners in other countries, we
found strong evidence that there are two types of RCD users: firms that compile large, even
vast portfolios of registered designs no matter if valid or not; and firms seeking to
selectively register truly new and unique designs. One factor that looms large in explaining
this heterogeneity is the massing of designs in a particular product category. Remarkably, in
fields with crowded design spaces (e.g., footwear), some firms see an incentive to register
each design indiscriminately because searches for prior art are difficult and costly, which also
makes the invalidation of registered designs difficult for third parties and thus increases their
enforceability (recall, RCDs are assumed to be valid unless proven otherwise; in other words,
the onus is on the alleged infringer to prove that his/her design does not infringe, or that the
original RCD was invalid). The low cost of (multiple) registration and lack of office
examination encourages such “all-you-can-file” strategies, which further reduces transparency
in already crowded design spaces. While conceivable in less crowded design spaces, the
“strategic” (and arguably abusive) use of RCDs (i.e., filing invalid designs), only came to
light in crowded design spaces, where the low cost of registration and the lack of office
examination could be exploited to this end.
Other firms are, however, reluctant to file RCDs without being confident about their
validity, and used RCDs for their intended purpose: to prevent imitation of distinctive,
“novel” designs with “individual character” as defined in Section 3.2 above that are put
into production by their owner. Among the car and tools firms studied, searches for prior art
are a common practice, and exclusivity is achieved through legal enforcement of RCDs and/or
the deterrence effect of registrations in domains where prior art is commonly, and relatively
easily monitored. As a result, filing strategies, and the quality of designs registered, have
become more selective.
Hence, in summary, we propose:
Proposition 1: The enforceability of design protection against copying has a u-
shaped relationship with the stock of registered designs, being higher at the low
stock end where registered designs tend to be valid, and at the high stock end
where the difficulty of proving invalidity favors the right owner over the alleged
Proposition 2: The quality, or distinctiveness, of registered designs in terms of
novelty and individual character is greater where the stock of designs is
relatively low and the average number of designs registered per application is low
(as this is associated with more judicious filing behavior).
Proposition 3: The “strategic” registration of designs known by the applicant to
be invalid is greatest in already crowded design spaces where there is a strong
tendency to submit multiple designs per application.
Taken together, our initial and exploratory analysis suggests that the total volume of
registered designs provides a poor indication of the extent of design innovation in a field.
Much work also remains to be done to comprehend how country-, industry-, and firm-level
determinants interact to influence firms’ use of RCDs. However, our findings indicate that
future studies should go beyond traditional determinants well-known from high-tech patenting
(e.g., Brouwer and Kleinknecht, 1999), as factors such as firm size and age or market power
seem to be less relevant.
Insert Table 4 about here
6. Research agenda for RCDs
Our exploratory study has provided some insights into the use, abuse and effectiveness of
RCDs. It has also raised new questions, which we have organized into a research agenda that
we intend to pursue, and invite others to join us. This includes issues concerning: 1.
understanding the adoption and use of RCDs; 2. the suitability of RCDs as innovation
indicators; 3. their effects on firm behaviors, including appropriation and creativity; 4. their
interaction with other intellectual property rights; 5. their actual and potential misuse and
inefficiencies; and 6. their role in competition.
6.1. Adoption and use of RCDs
RCDs were introduced to further harmonize design protection in the EU. However,
despite the introduction of a common legal instrument, the actual use of design registration by
applicants differs markedly between Member States due to a number of factors, including
differences in national unregistered protection, differences in national filing cost and
arrangements (such as the availability of electronic filing),
industry structures, the extent of
multinationals’ presence and international trade in different design categories, and the
distinctiveness of national tastes in these.
However, even in a single EU country, we found pronounced differences in the use of
RCDs across and within three industries. While some of this variation can be linked to
characteristics of their respective products, it is not readily apparent why some firms make
much heavier use of RCDs than others. For example, how do firms decide between not using
registered protection, registering nationally, and registering internationally? Furthermore,
some firms change their behaviors, but why? Beyond the practical importance of these
questions for policy makers, understanding these behaviors may offer an opportunity to study
the emergence of norms regarding the use of a legal institution.
While all Member States are required to provide national registration of designs, some appear to be effectively
encouraging EU filing through OHIM by making national filing unattractive. Others provide national
registration as a lower cost option. These differences need to be more fully understood.
Furthermore, a systematic comparison between the adoption of RCDs and European
trademarks and of patent applications submitted to the European Patent Office would provide
insights into the relative pace of harmonization and integration of registered IP protection.
6.2. RCDs as indicators of design-innovation
At first glance, RCDs appear to be potential indicators of design innovation, as the
registered designs should be both novel, and of “individual character. Moreover, data on
RCDs is readily accessible, timely, and available in large quantities across many countries. In
particular RCDs offer the prospect of better understanding how firms in low-tech domains
apply creativity and design to innovate, and how firms in “high-tech” activities combine
protection related to both form and function (i.e., design rights and patents).
However, our exploratory analysis suggests the interpretation of RCDs as indicators of
design innovation faces significant challenges, both inherent and procedural. Inherent
challenges arise from the nature of designs. While to be patentable, technical inventions need
to be non-obvious and an improvement over the state of the art, a design qualifying for
protection as an RCD just has to be sufficiently different, not “better. It is surely easier to
create a different design than a better invention, and so the barriers to acceptance are lower.
Furthermore yet another dissimilarity to patents how different a design needs to be for an
RCD to be valid depends on the existing design corpus (“reciprocity”), which therefore has to
be taken into account in interpreting RCDs as indicators. Finally, functionally new designs
(“design leaps” as, for example, the design of the first robotic lawn mower) cannot be
monopolized with RCDs, making it more difficult to tell significant design innovations from
lesser ones. A further issue is that RCDs have no value indicator such as forward citations for
patents, so although registered designs will vary enormously in degree of creativity and
economic value, it is not easy to identify the most valuable among them.
Procedural challenges also exist, as they do for patents. As our interviews have shown, the
propensity to file RCDs varies strongly between firms and industries; not all designs are
registered, and not all registered designs are new and individual. However, our evidence
indicates that design novelty tends to be higher when more selective filing is used, rather than
when owners submit mass applications. A comparison of RCDs with U.S. design patents (cf.
Rubera and Droge, 2013) regarding their suitability as indicators might yield interesting
insights since, due to examination, procedural challenges should be fewer for U.S. design
To conclude, we concur with Alcaide-Marzal and Tortajada-Esparza (2007) and Livesey
and Moultrie (2008) that RCDs offer some potential as indicators of design innovation.
However, they appear applicable especially in particular segments or sectors rather than
across all industries, and they need to be used with care. Certainly it would be naïve to
perceive RCDs as a perfect goldmine of data on design innovations. Our exploratory findings
suggest that researchers need to first understand how RCDs are used in their sector(s) of
interest before examining the data in detail. More generally, further research is needed to
clarify in which industries and under what conditions RCDs are informative as an indicator of
design innovation.
6.3. Effects of RCDs on creativity and appropriation
Legal design protection is intended to protect the right holder from imitation, and thereby
enable him to reap the rewards of his creative work. This in turn should increase incentives
for engaging in creative work, as expressed in the Community Design Regulation (EC 6/2002,
Preamble, §7): “Enhanced protection for industrial design not only promotes the contribution
of individual designers to the sum of Community excellence in the field, but also encourages
innovation and development of new products and investment in their production.” An
important question is to what extent this goal is achieved?
An interesting observation is that a sizable share of designs (12.5%) are registered by
individuals, rather than by enterprises, implying that design rights may facilitate individual
creativity and a possible division of labor between designer and producer. However, as with
patents, protection through the registration of designs may be much more effective in some
industries than others; and indeed it may be wholly ineffective in some. Where it is effective,
the registration of designs may be used strategically to increase barriers to entry or to
otherwise hamper innovation (we discuss this further under 6.5.).
Two questions are particularly pertinent: Do RCDs provide effective protection against
imitation, and do they encourage creativity and thus lead to more design innovation as
suggested by Ahmetoglu and Chamorro-Premuzic (2012)? As the answers to both questions
will likely vary with industry and other factors, it is important to understand the various
contingencies (cf. Fischer and Henkel, 2013 with respect to patents). Earlier findings from
surveys indicate that design rights are rather ineffective (Arundel, 2001; Sattler, 2003), but
this may be misleading, as these surveys often ask about the use of design rights in isolation,
rather than in conjunction with other forms of protection (see 6.4. below).
The fact that RCDs are not examined deserves particular attention. One might conjecture
that, as a result, they are less likely to be upheld in court, harder to enforce, and less effective
in promoting design innovation than an examined right would be. A comparison between
RCDs and corresponding U.S. design patents (as performed for patents by, e.g., Graham et al.,
2003) might provide valuable insights in this regard. We discuss these matters further in
relation to misuse and inefficiencies (Section 6.5.).
6.4. RCDs and other intellectual property rights
A recent and growing body of literature examines the degree of legal overlap between
design protection and other exclusion rights, such as trademarks (Carboni, 2006; Crouch,
2010), utility patents (Schlotelburg, 2006), and copyright protection (Cook, 2013), as well as
other laws, such as on unfair competition. Layers of protection through different forms of IP
rights may create synergies, which suggests adopting a portfolio perspective (Orozco, 2009;
Parchomovsky and Siegelman, 2002). Our interviews involved discussion of such combined
use of IPRs, especially in technology-intensive industries. But this picture is incomplete, and
we perceive the need for more research, similar to studies that have established synergies
between other pairs of appropriability mechanisms (Fischer and Henkel, 2013; Laursen and
Salter, 2005; Somaya and Graham, 2006). Furthermore, concurrent use and interactions
effects between design protection and informal appropriability mechanisms such as lead-time,
complementary assets and social norms should be analyzed.
Given that design rights and patents are sometimes used in combination, the question
arises whether and how such pairs or clusters of rights can be identified automatically, such as
through cross-referencing design and utility patent applications under the U.S. scheme. As
with the analysis of pairings of patents and scholarly articles (Huang and Murray, 2009;
Murray and Stern, 2007), such research should provide deeper insights into the use and effects
of design protection in combination with technical advances.
A rather different link between patents and RCDs concerns the distinction, for patents,
between discrete and complex technologies (Cohen et al., 2000). Products based on discrete
technologies (e.g., pharmaceuticals) contain few individually patentable inventions, while
products based on complex technologies (e.g., electronics) contain large numbers. Arguably,
such a distinction can also be made for designs (e.g., cars vs. shoes). The question is, are the
implications for the management of designs, and the registration of designs similar to those of
patents? And which products would be “discrete” and “complex,” respectively, for RCDs?
6.5. Misuse and inefficiencies
Various authors have criticized an excessive or strategic use of patents in a manner that
hinders innovation and competition. Among the causes are, especially in the U.S. patent
system, the extreme ease of obtaining patents and a lack of transparency (e.g., Bessen and
Meurer, 2008; Jaffe and Lerner, 2007).
Our exploratory study suggests that RCDs may experience similar problems. Obtaining
RCD protection is easy, and perhaps too easy, and moreover numerous designs can be filed in
a single application, at low cost. This, combined with the inherent difficulty of searching for
prior art in designs, dramatically reduces transparency, and may invite deliberate misuse of
the RCD system; for example, the deliberate filing of designs that were not new or even
designs created by competitors. We have learnt about some indication of such misuse, and
while the negative impact on creativity and competition appears limited hitherto, it is
undesirable to allow an instrument of public policy to be systematically abused. Research
could be undertaken aimed at reducing the abuse of RCDs.
For example, the unexamined nature of the design registration process is often highlighted
as a weakness, with comparisons made with U.S. design patents (cf. Graham et al., 2003, and
Graham and Harhoff, 2006, for pairs of patent applications). However, it is not clear that the
U.S. approach is better: more than 90% of U.S. design patent applications are granted
(Crouch, 2010), indicating that the U.S. system approximates to a registration system, and
moreover a large share of the granted patents entering opposition procedures (Harhoff et al.,
2003) or litigation (Allison and Lemley, 1998; Henry and Turner, 2006; Mann and
Underweiser, 2012) are overturned. Essentially, the lack of examination in the EU system
means it operates on the basis of presumed validity. But steps could be taken for those found
to persistently break the rules; such as having their entire portfolio examined (at their own
expense), or being barred from making further applications. Some strong sanctions would
reduce the abuse of the system and increase the proportion of truly novel designs with
individual character.
Another step that would presumably reduce abuse is to reduce or remove the discount for
simultaneously filing multiple designs. While some discount for a small number of closely
related designs makes sense, it is less clear why the 11th and subsequent design in a multiple
application requires fees of only 80 per design in return for five years of protection,
particularly as each design is an independent legal entity. Such a low fee for mass applications
seems to invite abuse, and make searches for prior art considerably more difficult, which in
turn invites more abuse. Research could and indeed should be undertaken aimed at optimizing
the system in the public’s interest.
6.6. Design rights and competition
While the size of a firm’s portfolio of registered designs is likely to be an imperfect
indicator, the fact that firms increasingly file and defend their RCDs, sometimes at
considerable expense, surely indicates an increasing importance of design, and design-related
innovation. Effective RCDs may allow firms to compete on design (as opposed to, or
alongside, technological innovation); they may also encourage the development of a division
of labor, between design specialists and technology specialists. RCDs may therefore allow us
to study industrial dynamics of this type, and they may be useful in tracing interactions
between design-related and technological innovation. Such interactions have recently been
described theoretically by Eisenman (2013), who argues that there are two situations in which
firms are most likely to benefit from aesthetic innovation: first when new technologies or
product categories emerge, and where design can help to “explain” the underlying new
technological ideas by reducing incongruence (cf. Rindova and Petkova, 2007); and second
when they are mature, design can excite users and provide differentiation opportunities for
products that are increasingly technologically standardized.
Beyond the filing of RCDs, infringement litigation may be informative about competition.
Our interviews in the car industry suggest interesting dynamics: with lower-quality firms
deliberately seeking design similarity to benefit from “spill-overs” if buyers take design
similarity as an indicator of similarity in quality. Overall, studying the filing and enforcement
of RCDs holds promise for a deeper understanding of design-related innovation and
7. Conclusions
This paper has provided an introduction to design protection, and specifically Registered
Community Designs (RCDs), a harmonized legal instrument introduced in the European
Union in April 2003. Since then, roughly three-quarters of a million individual designs have
been registered. This indicates the importance of RCDs in design-related markets, innovation
and competition, and at the same time appears to offer an enormously rich opportunity for the
study of design, and design innovation, to which scholars of innovation have given
surprisingly little attention hitherto.
In the paper we first outlined the legal nature of the design protection in Europe, including
that offered by RCDs, before providing a descriptive overview of the use of RCDs in terms of
which countries, industries and firms are most active in registering them. However, prior to
further data analysis, we were concerned to understand better the nature of the instrument, and
how firms are making use of it. We therefore undertook an exploratory qualitative study that
examined the use of RCDs by firms in three different industries: footwear, car manufacturing
and tool-making. We did this in the context of one EU country Germany, which even after
controlling for the size of its economy is amongst the countries with the highest number of
registered designs. Our study revealed striking differences between industries and indeed
firms within them. These differences could not have been easily anticipated without
undertaking the study. In footwear in particular, a sector in which the registration of designs is
especially prevalent, firms sometimes abuse the system by registering designs that they know
not to be new and even designs of their competitors.
As is evident from our research agenda section, we are enthusiastic that design protection
in general, and RCDs in particular, offers a rich avenue of potential research opportunities
into design, design-innovation and how firms use these as part of their competitive arsenal.
This study has sought to provide some groundwork upon which a set of further studies can be
undertaken, and we hope others will join us in this endeavor.
The authors are grateful to the bck GmbH, Munich, and the Office of Harmonization for
the Internal Market, Alicante, for providing access to the database of Registered Community
Designs. Special thanks go to the interviewees for contributing their time and insights to this
project. We are also grateful to the editor of Research Policy and three anonymous reviewers
for helpful suggestions which have significantly improved the paper. We also gratefully
acknowledge the funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme
under grant agreement CRE8TV.EU320203 that has enabled us to undertake this research.
The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent
the views of any other person or organization.
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Figures and tables
Fig. 1 RCD applications, 20032011. Source: OHIM database
Fig. 2 Origin of applications of RCDs, Community Trademarks, and EPO Patents,
Sources: OHIM, EPO
“Small old member states” include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg,
Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. “New member states” include Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia,
Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Designs submitted
in applications
0% 10% 20% 30%
Rest of World
United States
New member states
Small old member states
United Kingdom
RCDs Community Trademarks EPO Patents
Table 1
Countries with highest RCD activities. Sources: OHIM database, WIPO, World Bank
RCD filings
National filings
per RCD (2011)
WIPO filings
per RCD (2011)
RCDs (cum., 200311) per
GDP (avg., 200311) 𝟏𝟎𝟔]
United States
United Kingdom
Czech Rep.
Table 2
Most-cited Locarno classes, including top three subclasses. Source: OHIM database
Share of total
CAGR appl.
Beds and seats
Other furniture and furniture parts
Storage furniture
Articles of clothing and haberdashery
Footwear, socks and stockings
Haberdashery and clothing accessories
Packages and containers for the transport or handling of goods
Boxes, cases, containers, (preserve) tins or cans
Bottles, flasks, pots, carboys and demijohns
Caps and lids
Fluid distribution equipment, sanitary, heating, and ventilation
Sanitary appliances
Fluid distribution equipment
Heating equipment
Recording, communication or information retrieval equipment
Com. equipment, wireless remote controls and radio amplifiers
Data processing equipment and peripheral apparatus and devices
Screen displays and icons
Lighting apparatus
Lamps, standard lamps, chandeliers, wall and ceiling fixtures
Luminous sources, electrical or not
Luminous devices for vehicles
Household goods
China, glassware, dishes and other articles of a similar nature
Cooking appliances, utensils and containers
Appliances and utensils, hand-manipulated, for preparing food or drink
Building units and construction elements
Prefabricated or pre-assembled building parts
Building materials
Houses, garages and other buildings
Tools and hardware
Handles, knobs & hinges
Fastening, supporting or mounting devices
Other tools and implements
Means of transport or hoisting
Parts, equipment and accessories for vehicles
Cycles and motor cycles
Motor cars, buses and lorries
Table 3
Top applicants of RCDs. Source: OHIM database
Designs per
appl. (Ø)
Table 4
Summary of core aspects of analysis with illustrations.
Power & gardening tools
A) RCD usage
Divergent between firms
High propensity (“all-you-can-file"):
So far, we’ve registered all of our
models. (Company)
Low propensity:
In 90 percent of the cases, we rely
on unregistered design protection.
That’s all we need. (Lawyer)
Mainly consistent between firms
[The application numbers in our
industry] follow a normal,
reasonable trend. Also, when I
have a look at the other statistics,
deferred publications etc., one
observes quite similar behaviors.
Highly consistent between firms
It’s now established practice in our
industry to register new product
designs. (Company)
Role in IPR
What’s apparent is that it’s
practically the only possibility for the
footwear industry to protect their
intellectual property [with a
registered right]. (Lawyer)
Design, that’s the icing on the
cake. That’s nice to have, and
often we also must have it. Where
we can’t use patents or trademarks
to stop infringement, or to improve
our legal and economic position.
For us design rights essentially
provide flanking protection.
B) Industry and product parameters
of designs
Generally low (exceptions: e.g.,
wheels and tires)
Generally low (exceptions: e.g., saw
blades and drill bits)
Search for
prior art
Considered impracticable
You don’t dwell on pre-registration
searches, alone for economic
reasons. The vast number and high
concentration of designs make them
utterly expensive. (Lawyer)
It’s easier to just register, and to
hope being first. And then the others
have the problem to figure out
whether they infringe or not. That’s
always the biggest problem.
Registration is the easiest and
cheapest in practice. (Lawyer)
Considered practicable and
We do it due to the mere fact that
we track of course the designs
disclosed by our competitors.
The Japanese design patent is
interesting for us as a kind of litmus
test. If you get it in Japan, it won’t
be proven wrong. (Company)
Considered practicable and
The search we conduct is that we
permanently monitor the designs
being published. (Company)
Searches are compulsory! […] We
put much time and effort into it.
C) Filing motives
Enforcement of RCDs is perceived as
an effective means to prevent
imitation from both direct competitors
and lower-end companies.
No, registration alone doesn’t deter,
but rather enforcement. (Company)
Registration and enforcement of
RCDs is perceived as an effective
means to prevent imitation from
lower-end companies.
Design rights as searchable rights
are also a good defense
mechanism. So that competitors
know in advance what works, and
then don’t do it at all. (Company)
Registration and enforcement of
RCDs is perceived as an effective
means to prevent imitation from
lower-end companies.
That’s primarily a deterrent against
counterfeiting. (Company)
Some firms wittingly file invalid
design rights to prevent infringement
suits from third parties and/or to
improve bargaining power over
Not prevalent
Not prevalent
Table 5
List of interviews.
Clients (selection)
Rossbach & Beier
AstorMueller, K&S, Softclox
Gail & Kollegen
Think!, Buffalo, ara Shoes
Senior Patent Counsel
Bird & Bird
Lloyd Shoes
Head of Trademarks and Designs,
Design Rights Specialist
Prinz & Partner
Partner, Partner
KLAKA Rechtsanwälte
Kuhnen & Wacker
Toyota, Denso, Yokohama
MAN Truck & Bus
Head of IPR Department
Head of Trademarks and Designs
Robert Bosch
Vice President IPR Department
Andreas Stihl
Head of IPR Department
Benninger & Eichler Stahlberg
John Deere Germany
Senior Patent Attorney
General experts
Allen & Overy
Bird & Bird
Hogan Lovells
Head of Invalidity Division
... Many tech companies recognise the role that design plays in shaping their innovation activities like never before; however, how to measure the value of design has been underrepresented. Few researches on innovation measures have attempted to embrace expanding parameters, including design, creativity, and diversity, at both strategic and operational levels of business, not limited to only technology [1][2][3][4][5][6]. For instance, Fleming's study [7] demonstrated that breakthrough innovations are more likely to emerge from a team made up of people from very diverse domains, rather than one comprised of people from similar domains. ...
... Patents have long been accepted as an essential source for understanding innovation, industrial knowledge and progress [17][18][19]. A prominent 2011-2018 series of lawsuits between Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. inculcated a strategy of patenting the significance of product form, aesthetics, and stylings, which are directly related to design and, more particularly, industrial design and ergonomics [2]. Yet surprisingly, as innovation is still mostly conceptualized as 'technological', concerns of design innovation and design patents implying aesthetic change to product design and form have seldom attracted scholarly attention ( [1,2,20]. ...
... A prominent 2011-2018 series of lawsuits between Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. inculcated a strategy of patenting the significance of product form, aesthetics, and stylings, which are directly related to design and, more particularly, industrial design and ergonomics [2]. Yet surprisingly, as innovation is still mostly conceptualized as 'technological', concerns of design innovation and design patents implying aesthetic change to product design and form have seldom attracted scholarly attention ( [1,2,20]. ...
The present study suggests a cross-citation measure comprised of design and utility patents and proposes a model of innovation pollination. The case of Dyson Ltd. provides empirical evidence of how a design-led, a technology-led, or a cross-pollinating innovation can function in the product innovation. Our findings reveal that the evolution of innovation pollination has distinguishing features according to the product category and the function of the company's prior innovation experience. Dyson's renowned bladeless fans and its bagless vacuum cleaners have been strongly driven by design and technology innovation, such cross-pollination is infrequent. We further discuss the implications technology, design, and innovation management strategy.
... Against this background, and in contrast to the literature on other aspects of non-technological innovation, including organisational and service innovation (Camarero and Garrido María, 2008;Tether and Tajar, 2008), scholars have underlined that systematic quantitative evidence on design innovation remains limited (D'Ippolito, 2014;Filitz et al., 2015). A few studies have examined how investing in design may inform new product development and firms' innovative performance (Marsili and Salter, 2006;Montresor and Vezzani, 2020;Roper et al., 2016); however, this bulk of research has focused primarily on the functional dimension of design. ...
... Here, we consider the hypothesis of mutually reinforcing effects between design and product innovation, shedding light on the learning opportunities that may occur across different knowledge bases (Asheim et al., 2007;Walsh, 1996). By exploring these effects within a unified framework, we address recent calls for a deeper understanding of the interaction between symbolic design and product innovation (Filitz et al., 2015;Utterback et al., 2006;Verganti, 2008). ...
... Drawing upon this research, we call for an exploration of the strategic and managerial efforts directed to effectively exploit synergies between design and other forms of innovation, complementing recent debates around the strategic role of design (Gallego et al., 2021;Knight et al., 2020). More broadly, we join recent research that aims at understanding how and under which circumstances we can capture and measure the value of design innovation (Dan et al., 2018;Filitz et al., 2015;Montresor and Vezzani, 2020). ...
This paper explores persistence and learning effects in the aesthetic and symbolic dimensions of design innovation. By combining insights from innovation economics and design studies, we discuss design innovation as the result of firm-specific cumulative learning. We then conceptualise design and product innovation as complementary processes whose interplay may lead to learning effects across different dimensions of knowledge creation. We provide quantitative evidence for these insights applying dynamic probit and bivariate probit models to a longitudinal dataset of manufacturing firms based in Spain for the period 2007-2016. Our findings confirm the presence of persistence effects in design innovation, offering novel evidence in support of the view whereby design is an iterative process shaped by the knowledge generated through firms’ previous engagement with design. In addition, the results contribute to our understanding of the role of design beyond its functional dimension, pointing to mutually reinforcing effects between aesthetic and symbolic design and product innovation.
... In fact, LDE firms work in a context of incremental technological evolution for which aesthetic innovation is a standard firm pursuit (Eisenman, 2013). Aesthetic innovations, also known as design innovations (Walsh, 1996) or soft innovations (Stoneman, 2010), become relevant because they have the potential to increase users' understanding of and attraction to the adjusted product offering (D'Ippolito, 2014;Filitz et al., 2015). ...
... In addition, as publications on this matter is rather unusual for this context, I opted to use a period that matches the period addressed in a prior publication (i.e., Barros, 2015) to cross-check the validity of the findings. My analysis is focused only on manufacturing, where firms are more likely to pursue IPRs, especially patents, utility models and registration of designs (Filitz et al., 2015;Scherer, 1983). Data were collected by IB-GE's trained personnel, who used either computer-assisted telephone interviews or personal interviews (in loco). ...
... My estimation results for R&D performers with product innovations show that aesthetic-oriented appropriation methods are more likely to be used by larger firms, and this is apparently no different from the situation in more developed countries (Cornish et al., 2019;Filitz et al., 2015). In turn, R&D intensity relates differently to design complexity and to registration of design. ...
... Although its commercial success is uncertain, preorders for the truck bode well (Mehta, 2019). Overall, a global increase in the number of design patents (Chan, Mihm, and Sosa, 2018;Filitz, Henkel, and Tether, 2015;Rubera, 2015) suggests that investing in novel designs is a general trend across industries, making research on the effectiveness and management of design innovation of particular interest. ...
... To measure the degree of design deviation compared to extant designs, authors have used perceptions from consumers (e.g., Moon et al., 2015;Mugge and Dahl, 2013;Talke et al., 2009), industry experts (e.g., Dell'Era and Verganti, 2007;Rubera, 2015), or company respondents (e.g., Gemser and Leenders, 2001;Liker, Collins, and Hull, 1999;Micheli and Gemser, 2016). Others have measured design innovation via the presence of design patents (e.g., Chan et al., 2018;Dan et al., 2018;Filitz et al., 2015;Rubera and Droge, 2013). Design patents are a form of intellectual property protection which are normally granted for new, original designs that are not necessary for the product's proper functioning. ...
... Degree of typicality is measured by asking consumers to rate visual images via an online survey (survey items to measure "perceived typicality" are not specified in the article). Filitz et al. (2015) Design innovation Design is described as a product's external expression which is contrasted with a product's "inner workings" (p. 1193). ...
... There has been substantial research attention focusing exclusively on the unique qualities of OICs (Dean et al. 2006;Fichter 2009;Filitz et al. 2015;Gebauer et al. 2013;Huang et al. 2012;Jarvenpaa and Lang 2011;Papadakis et al. 2014). In this research, an OIC is defined as a loosely coupled organization of participants in which designed artifacts, instead of profiles of the participants, are central to the organization (Flath et al. 2017;Jarvenpaa and Lang 2011). ...
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Design artifacts in online innovation communities are increasingly becoming a primary source of innovation for organizations. A distinguishing feature of such communities is that they are organized around design artifacts, not around people. The search for novel innovations thus equates to a search for novel designs. This is not a trivial problem since the novelty of a design is a function of its relationship to other designs, and this relationship changes as each design is added. These relations between artifacts affect both consumption and production. Moreover, these relations form a landscape whose structure affects the emergence of novelty. We find evidence for our theorizing using an analysis of over 35,000 Thingiverse design artifacts. This work identifies the differential effects of different forms of novelty, visual and verbal, on subsequent innovation, and identifies the differential effects of different degrees of structure in the landscape on novelty.
In addition to technological superiority (functional value), attention to design superiority (semantic value) is increasing as a source of competitiveness in product market. In this research, we have created linked data set of utility patent and design patent information of Japan Patent Office to evaluate the design patent data as a source of understanding design innovation. First, machine learning was performed on a classification model for disambiguating the same person of the inventor/creator using data of patent right and design right applied to the Japanese Patent Office. By interconnecting the inventor's and creator's identifiers estimated by the learned classification model, we identified the design creator who also made the patent invention. Next, an empirical analysis is conducted to characterize the design created by an inventor of utility patent. As a result, about half of design patents are found to be created by the same person who is involved by utility patent. However, the division of labor of designer (a creator of design patent) and engineer (inventor of utility patent) is in progress, particularly for a large firm.
At the intersection of regional and innovation studies, trademark research is producing stylized facts, methodological lessons and policy insights underlining the importance of softer intangible assets for regional resilience and growth. Despite all the recent attention, there are still several opportunities that the present agenda-framing piece tries to canvas, identifying at least two directions for further research: the geography of innovation/entrepreneurship and regional specialization/diversification. Not only do these emerge from a dedicated special issue in Regional Studies (to which this paper also serves as an editorial), but they also unfold in emerging research and policy trajectories.
The design right is a widely used but poorly understood intellectual property right that allows the protection of products’ aesthetics and outer appearances. We study the influence of design protection on price by exploiting cross-country differences in the scope of protection in the European automotive spare parts market: In some countries, repair parts are exempted from design protection, while in others they are not. Based on detailed price data, our difference-in-differences estimates imply that design protection increases prices by about 5–8%, with large differences between carmakers. We then link our findings to the literature on deviations from the law of one price. We document large cross-country price deviations for identical spare parts and provide evidence that a part of these price deviations can be explained by the lack of harmonization of design protection in combination with carmakers’ pricing-to-market strategies.
This paper investigates whether a green kind of design helps firms increase their capabilities for inventing in the environmental domain and whether it does so more than ‘standard’ design. It also investigates whether the effect of ‘green-matching’ between new design and technologies is conditional on firms’ innovative capabilities, as reflected by their R&D expenditure. We address these research questions with respect to the world's top R&D investors, looking at their intellectual property rights at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and proposing an original textual identification of green designs and trademarks. We find that green design increases environmental inventions by top R&D investors, and to a greater extent than non-environmental ones. Standard design also stimulates environmental inventions, but to a lesser extent than green design. The ‘green-matching’ actually helps, but internal innovative capabilities are required to make it effective: a green-tech ‘prize’ emerges from green design, but only once a minimum threshold of R&D expenditure has been reached.
Full-text available
The design right is a widely used but poorly understood intellectual property right that allows the protection of products' aesthetics and outer appearances. We study the influence of design protection on price by exploiting cross-country differences in the scope of protection in the European automotive spare parts market: In some countries, repair parts are exempted from design protection, while in others they are not. Based on detailed price data, our difference-indifferences estimates imply that design protection increases prices by about 5-8%, with large differences between carmakers. We then link our findings to the literature on deviations from the law of one price. We document large cross-country price deviations for identical spare parts and provide evidence that a part of these price deviations can be explained by the lack of harmonization of design protection in combination with carmakers' pricing-to-market strategies.
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During the 1980s and 1990s, ‘evolutionary’ or ‘Schumpeterian’ issues rose higher on the agenda of social and economic research. The growing interest in the study of innovation and technological change stands in contrast to the availability of adequate statistical data. The provision of data for empirical research is deficient in several respects, one problem being that data collection by statistical agencies tends to be confined to indicators of the ‘input’ side of the innovation process, mainly to R&D. There are attempts in several countries to extend the data collection to non-R&D innovation ‘inputs’. Examples are data on so-called ‘intangible’ investments (e.g. software, marketing or design expenditures), or (heroic) attempts to measure the total innovation expenditures of firms, including a number of non-R&D innovation cost categories (see also Chapter 7 of this book).
Design is of key importance to the UK economy, with £33.5billion spent on design in 2008. This importance prompted the IPO to commission a set of research projects around design rights which has been produced in four chapters.The second chapter looks at the impact registered design rights have on business performance, given a UK or EU design registration.
The physical form or design of a product is an unquestioned determinant of its marketplace success. A good design attracts consumers to a product, communicates to them, and adds value to the product by increasing the quality of the usage experiences associated with it. Nevertheless, the topic of product design is rarely, if ever, encountered in marketing journals. To bring needed attention to the subject of product design and enable researchers to better investigate design issues, the author introduces a conceptual model and several propositions that describe how the form of a product relates to consumers’ psychological and behavioral responses. After presenting this model, the author describes numerous strategic implications and research directions.
- This paper describes the process of inducting theory using case studies from specifying the research questions to reaching closure. Some features of the process, such as problem definition and construct validation, are similar to hypothesis-testing research. Others, such as within-case analysis and replication logic, are unique to the inductive, case-oriented process. Overall, the process described here is highly iterative and tightly linked to data. This research approach is especially appropriate in new topic areas. The resultant theory is often novel, testable, and empirically valid. Finally, framebreaking insights, the tests of good theory (e.g., parsimony, logical coherence), and convincing grounding in the evidence are the key criteria for evaluating this type of research.