3.5 What is a registered design?

In IP terms, the design of a product comprises the novel and distinctive features of its shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation, which give a product a unique visual appearance. It does not include how a product works, its material composition or internal structure.

The owner of a registered design has exclusive rights to use, license or sell it.

Registration and certification

Some designs cannot be registered, e.g. medals, currency and scandalous designs. Artwork not applied to a product, and integrated circuits, are protected by copyright and circuit layouts respectively, described elsewhere in this training.

Registrations must be made separately in each desired jurisdiction. Laws and procedures vary significantly among jurisdictions. The registration process can be complex and costly. Certification is subject to examination. If the design is certified, legal rights are enforceable retrospectively to the application date (similar to a grant for a patent). Certified designs are searchable in public databases.

In Australia, registration lasts for five years and can be renewed once only for a further five years.

Unregistered designs

Unlike some other jurisdictions (e.g. UK), Australia does not have specific rights for unregistered designs, although limited rights may apply under Australian Consumer Law.


Quick quiz – Q1: There is no advantage in registering a trade mark because in Australia unregistered trade marks are allowed. True or false?

True
INCORRECT: Try again
False
CORRECT: Registration provides specific rights under IP law that are not available to unregistered trademarks, which instead rely on less enforceable common law principles.

Quick quiz – Q2: You have designed a novel domestic clothes iron that is lighter than others because it is made from a metal/plastic composite material. You can protect it with a registered design. True or false?

True
INCORRECT: Try again
False
CORRECT: because the visual appearance of the clothes iron is not affected by the novel choice of material.

Quick quiz – Q3: You have created a visually stunning and distinctive painting of Sydney Harbour. Your work can be protected with a registered design. True or false?

True
INCORRECT: Try again
False
CORRECT: because the painting is a single item, not part of a product range. Instead, the painting is probably protectable under copyright.