The European Union covers twenty seven member states at present. A single IP right for Registered Designs can be obtained relatively easily for low cost that will cover this whole area. However, if you take a look at the map of the EU it is apparent that there are several ‘holes’ in coverage for the non-EU countries in Europe. Key non-EU states includes Switzerland, Norway, Turkey and much of the former Yugoslavia, especially Croatia and Serbia. These countries can act as a source of parallel (so-called grey) imports into the EU and can be troublesome for IP holders who have rights limited to the EU. However, filling in these holes is actually a fairly straightforward matter and involves using the Hague System for International Design Registration.
For a given design a first registration can be obtained in the EU with the International Registration filed up to six months later designating the additional countries needed. Alternatively, the International Design Registration can be filed directly designating the EU as well as any additional hole filler countries. Using the Hague system is also relatively inexpensive but it requires a little familiarity and there are qualification restrictions for non-EU domiciled applicants. IP right holders concerned about avoiding ‘Swiss-Cheese’ coverage in Europe should definitely look to a winning combination of an EU Registered Design and International Design Registration.