The short answer to this question would be yes, but with significant nuances. The industrial design regulation establishes restrictions to the protection of some designs according to their visible or non-visible character, as well as their intended purpose. Article 4.2 of Council Regulation (EC) 6/2002 on Community designs excludes the protection of those components of complex products that are not visible during the ordinary use of the product – understood as the use of the end user of the complex product, not including maintenance, conservation or repair -. Therefore, although these designs meet the premises of novelty and uniqueness, they are not protectable because they are internal parts that are not visible in the assembled state of the product.
What then? There are a series of components that are part of complex products but which, due to their characteristics and functionality, are protectable for their industrial design even though they are not visible. The reason lies in the concept of a complex product, an element made up of multiple replaceable components that allow the main product to be disassembled and reassembled. These components must be indispensable for the functioning of the complete product.
This gives rise to the nuances mentioned at the beginning. There are components that despite being part of the main device, do not have an essential function for its proper functioning or for its maintenance, upkeep or repair. Therefore, they do not count as a component of the complete product itself but will be eligible for protection if they meet the requirements of novelty and uniqueness required for any industrial design.
Repair and aftermarket
The legal protection of components cannot limit competition and the ability to repair complex products. The purchaser of a product cannot be tied to the manufacturer when repairing or exchanging a part which is an add-on that can be purchased independently on the market through different suppliers and distribution channels. Moreover, they could even have different characteristics and continue to work with the complex product to which they complement.
At PONTI & PARTNERS we study each case individually and with extreme attention to detail. We assess whether any of these parts or components that are not visible during the use of the complex product meet the requirements to be protected as an industrial design.
If you have any doubt or need advice in this field or in any other related to intellectual and industrial property, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com or by telephone at 934 87 49 36.