Designs have been chosen as a subject matter of the research on overlapping protection regimes as they are a fascinating element of modern culture and an important tool on the competitive market. Design, an ambiguous phenomenon which is difficult to classify and categorize, presents a challenge for the traditional paradigms of the system of intellectual property protection. Its complex, not to say hybrid nature, combining art, industry and commerce, makes designs susceptible to protection under different regimes of intellectual property in such a scope as probably no other immaterial good. Therefore, the contemporary social, cultural and economic functions of designs, as well as its multi-faceted nature are important for the study which aspires to outline a model of optimal protection of designs, i.e. including its real functions in the society and on the market.
The cumulative protection of designs is articulated in Articles 16 and 17 of the Design Directive as well as in Article 96 of the Community Design Regulation. Consequently, designs may be protected as national or Community designs (registered and unregistered), under the copyright and the trade mark regimes, as utility models and against unfair competition acts. Taking into account the temporal aspect, the concurrent rights may be used simultaneously (concurrently) and/or sequentially (consecutively), although the latter type is not a pure cumulation. Such situation is advantageous to the rightholder but may pose a threat to competitors, third parties and the general public. This situation requires extensive and multi-faceted studies which should result in locating the weaknesses and insufficiencies of the intellectual property protection system and suggestions as to the necessary solutions which would help to provide an optimal and balanced scheme of design protection.