What is a registered design?
A registered design right provides legal protection for the visual appearance of a product.
Can I get a registered design on my product?
Yes - If your design is new and distinctive when
compared with the prior art. The prior art includes
designs publicly used in Australia, designs published
in Australia or overseas and designs disclosed in
A registered design application must be made
before any public product disclosure or commercial
use of the product occurs or it will be invalid.
Why not use a patent or copyright?
A registered design does not normally provide
protection for the function of an article and if
functional protection is required, this can only
normally be achieved using the patent process.
Conversely, a patent cannot protect the nonfunctional
appearance of a product; this can only
be achieved using the registered design process.
You can have both a registered design and a patent
for the same product to protect all aspects of your
design (i.e. both the appearance and functionality).
Copyright covers all 2-dimensional artistic works and
some 3-dimensional artistic works. However, when
3-dimensional artistic works are used commercially
(e.g mass produced) they automatically lose
copyright protection. In order to effectively prosecute
a party who is using your commercial design, you
need a registered design.
Benefits of a registered design
- A registered design protects the new and distinctive visual features of the design against copying.
- A registered design can also be used as a
defensive measure to prevent a competitor
from obtaining legal protection over the
appearance of a product by them lodging
their own registration. A registered design is
able to provide this defensive position due to
the publication of the design on registration
by IP Australia. Once published, the
registered design becomes prior art for any
design application that is filed afterward – this
publication is recognised worldwide, so a
registered design in Australia will also prevent
a competitor from obtaining a valid design
registration for an item having the same or a
similar appearance overseas.
The registered design process
A design can be registered in Australia by a patent attorney very quickly
(often in a matter of a few weeks). Prior to filing a
design application, black and white line drawings of
the item showing its unique design from a variety
of different aspects (e.g. front, side, top, perspective
etc. - as many views as needed to show all the new
and distinctive visual features of the design) need to
be prepared. The representations are then filed at
IP Australia along with details of the owner of the design and
the author of the design.
IP Australia then conducts a formalities examination only
(no substantive examination of the newness or
distinctiveness of the design is conducted prior to
registration). If there are no formalities issues in the
information supplied or in the representations of
the design, and the required official fees have been
paid, IP Australia officially registers the design and publishes
the details of the registration in the Australian Official
Journal of Designs. Registration and publication
in the Journal occurs within a matter of weeks. On
registration, the design is also made available to
be searched by the general public in the Australian
Designs Data Searching (ADDS) database.
A design registration remains current for 5 years and
then can be renewed once for a further 5 year period
for a maximum term of 10 years.
The diagram below illustrates the steps involved in obtaining a registered design in Australia.
Click to zoom in
Enforcement of registered design
To obtain an enforceable design right, a Request
for Certification of the registered design must be
filed with IP Australia, at which time IP Australia will conduct a
substantive examination of the design to determine
whether the design is new and distinctive over the
prior art. Any person (not just the owner of the
design) can file a request to have the registered
design certified at any time during the term of the
If the design passes this optional examination
phase, noting there is opportunity for your patent attorney to present counter arguments, the design is certified. Certified designs can
be used to stop another party from selling products
that are substantially similar in overall impression to
the certified design.