About designs

062 Cafe meeting

A design is the overall appearance of a product. This includes the shape, configuration, pattern and ornamentation which, when applied to a product, give it a unique visual appearance.

A registered design that has been certified after it has been examined provides you with enforceable rights to use, licence, sell or protect your design.

A product is something that is manufactured or handmade. Importantly the mechanics of how a product works or operates is not protected by designs legislation, but may be protected using a patent.

Before you apply, consider:

What designs can be protected?

You can obtain protection for your design in Australia, provided it is both:

  • 'new' - meaning it must not be identical to any design* previously disclosed anywhere in the world (including on the internet), nor any design previously used in Australia; and
  • 'distinctive' - meaning it must not be substantially similar in overall impression to any design* previously published anywhere in the world (including on the internet), nor any design previously used in Australia.

(*This includes previous designs owned by you, the applicant)

Some designs are not registrable by law. These include designs for medals, layouts for integrated circuits, Australian currency and scandalous designs. A scandalous design is one which is shocking or offensive to the public or an individual's sense of propriety or morality.

If you have already publicly disclosed your design (e.g. exhibited, sold copies, posted your design on a website), you may not be able to protect it as it may not be considered to be new and distinctive at the time of examination. You can use a formal publication process in the Australian Official Journal of Designs to prevent others from obtaining certification of a similar design.

Examples of designs

The look, shape and style of the original Apple iPod ® personal media players is a good example of how a unique design can differentiate one product from a range of others.

In the fashion industry, design refers to the overall visual appearance of a product, including visual features such as a skirt with ruffles or a shirt with a unique cut or decorative pattern.

Examples of Australian registered designs:

  • the Albion Cricket Helmet (2004)
  • the portable cooler (1987)
  • Speedo's Fastskin suit (2000)
  • the shape of the Holden Monaro (2003).

Last Updated: 14/10/2015

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Patent Examiner since 2010
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