Is it possible to obtain design protection for living organisms?

According to OHIM’s Guidelines for the Examination of Design Invalidity Applications, Article 5.1.1 „A design that discloses the appearance of a living organism in its natural state, in principle, has to be refused. Even if the shape at issue deviates from that of the common corresponding living organism, the design should be refused, if nothing suggests that the shape is the result of a manual or industrial process.“

As a result, living organisms are not qualified for a design registration. This guideline is related to (and the consequence of) a decision of OHIM’s Third Board of Appeal issued in 2013 in the „Heart-shaped tomato case“, according to which a living plant or its fruit do not meet the requirements to be considered neither a design (in compliance with art. 3(a) of the Community Designs Rules) nor a product (art. 3 (b) CDR).

The Board’s assertion will be helpful in the future applications, as the registrars are informed they will need to prove that the features they want to protect are the result of a manual or industrial process.

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