Search for a design

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Before submitting a design application, it is a good idea to conduct a search of existing registered designs. This will help you determine whether your proposed design is new and distinctive, and therefore worth registering or not. 

A search will also determine if a similar design has already been registered. You may face legal action if you infringe the design rights of the owners of other similar designs.

The main types of design searches you should undertake include:

  • Design registers and databases
  • Prior art
  • Infringement searches
  • Free to use searches
  • Competitor/name based searches

Deciding what you should search on, for your particular purposes, can require a clear understanding of the law and legislation that applies to designs.

Professional searches, specific assistance and advice are available from IP professionals and search firms.

Our Australian Designs Data Searching (ADDS) system has images of all the registered designs from 1985. We provide free online access to ADDS. Professional searches are also available from IP Professionals and search firms. Important: Please read our disclaimer regarding use of our online services.

Obtaining competitive information

Knowing what your competitors are doing has always been a vital element of commercial success. Today it is even more important with the rapid growth in technology and the globalisation of the world economy.

For a design to be a valuable IP right it must be new and distinctive. You need to be up-to-date with new products and designs if you want to get an edge over your competitors. Australian and foreign designs databases include vast amounts of competitive knowledge that you can search and study to keep up with the current trends and new registrations.

Australian Designs Data Searching (ADDS)

ADDS allows you to search for both design applications and registered designs based on a wide range of data fields. All data published in the Australian Official Journal of Designs can be searched on ADDS.

Representations of registered designs are available online from design registration number 90000 to current. The ADDS data includes all applications and registrations from 1986 and all registrations captured from 1973 to 1985 that were still active in 1985. No information exists prior to June 1972.

Through ADDS you can search using the following methods:

  • Simple search
  • Common search 
  • Advanced search
  • Name list search

All four methods provide a form which you can complete and submit online.

An important part of design searching is properly interpreting the often complex search results. You may need to seek assistance from an IP professional.

Designs Searchable Journal

You can also search for designs on the Designs Searchable Journal. The Designs Searchable Journal is an electronic version of the Australian Official Journal of Designs, which is published every fortnight. This means that changes made to the internal database will only be reflected in the next Designs journal. If information is required immediately, then the AU Designs Data Searching (ADDS) should be used. The information contained in the searchable journal is set out in a similar manner as the information appearing in the Australian Official Journal of Designs. The searchable journal will allow searching on the following two groups:

Journal details

  • Volume/Issue Number of a particular journal or range of Volume/Issue Number(s) of journals
  • Publication date or range of publication dates
  • Journal Section - lodgements, extentions of period of registrations, ceasing etc

Design details

  • Application number(s)
  • Registration number(s)
  • Classification code(s)
  • Keywords - eg. name of applicant/owner on those areas of the journal containing text


The Commonwealth and its officers will not be liable for errors or omissions in the materal or data in the Designs searchable journal or for any consequences arising from such errors or omissions, including any loss which may be incurred as a result of reliance on the accuracy or completeness of the material or data.

International designs information

The two largest international designs databases are held by the European Patent Organisation and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has links to the sites of many international IP offices.

Using these databases effectively is a specialised skill and can sometimes be time-consuming and costly. An IP professional may provide services to conduct a search for you.

Determining who owns a design

You may need to find out who owns a design if you want to:

  1. obtain a licence to use that design
  2. buy the design
  3. loan money to the owner of a valuable design and then take a mortgage over it.

The Designs Register records the names of entities that own registered designs. If a third party with an unregistered interest owns or has an interest in a design, it will not appear on the register.

Determining if a design has been mortgaged

All security interests such as mortgages over a design must be recorded by the secured party on the national Personal Property Securities Register. The PPS Register can be searched to determine whether there is a mortgage over a design. From 30 January 2012, our Register of Designs is no longer a legal securities register. Existing mortgages recorded on the Designs Register will remain, however they cannot be relied on as recordsof legal effect. More information is available in the Australian Journal of Designs Official Notice of 19 December 2011. New claimed security interests including mortgages will still be recorded on the Designs Register on application if claimants wish to receive certain notifications under the Designs Act 2003.

If the design owner is a company, the mortgage may also have been recorded on the Register of Company Charges. You may also wish to search this register to determine if a design has been mortgaged. However, the PPS Register will largely take over this function on 30 January 2012 for new mortgages by companies over IP Rights.


Last Updated: 21/12/2015

Meet Rajani
Bachelor of Commerce

Supervisor Patent Administration Officer since 2006
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