What I wasn’t told studying design

As part of our partnership of the 2016 Good Designs Awards, we’re taking a look at how intellectual property relates to your creative businesses and why it’s important to consider protecting your designs. From students to start-ups all the way through to seasoned professionals, understanding the basics of IP is vital.

Before joining IP Australia I studied industrial design. During that study we had projects designing everything between toasters, telephones, photo frames and furniture.

Some of those projects were in collaboration with companies like Victa and Kenwood. With these projects it was understood any designs we produced, whether or not they were ever used by the company, would belong to that company, not us. We saw that as the trade-off for the experience we got ‘working in the industry’.

What wasn’t as widely understood, however, was who owned what we created in the rest of our time at uni. The short answer is, in most cases, designs created while studying at uni belong to the uni, not the student. In the same way as a designer employed to design doesn’t own those designs, instead they belong to the employer.

This brings me to the first of my tips for beginners: you should always know who owns any intellectual property (IP) created out of partnerships, contracts or freelance work you’re going to be involved in. The earlier you know this, the less confusion you’ll have in the long run.

Our recent research through collaborative workspaces and incubator hubs has shown us how productive recent graduates and start-ups are at creating IP.  But it’s also really cemented for us how little some of those start-ups think about that IP.

In the start-up environment it’s increasingly common to outsource work like coding or design, leaving the start-up to focus on getting off the ground. So it’s important to have thought about an IP strategy before engaging with third parties, so everyone can be clear about who owns the work produced.

In these situations specific ownership contracts and non-disclosure agreements are not only common but often vital.

This brings me to my second tip for beginners: don’t publish your work if you think you might want or need to register your design.

Competitions like Good Design Australia are a great chance to showcase your work and get some much needed press or recognition. But if the success of your business is going to rely on yours being the only product like it, it’s important to protect your creations. Design registrations are not like trade marks, if you publish your work before applying, you won’t get a registration.

You might decide not to register your design, but do it knowingly. Don’t be caught out. If your designs are as good as you think, you might be a target for copycats.

By Liam, IP Australia

Discover more

If you’re a budding designer, and you would like to know more about protecting your creation, start by visiting the designs section of our website.

Good Design Festival 2016

This year, we’re partnering with Good Designs Australia for the 2016 Good Design Festival. Taking place at the iconic Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay Sydney, in the heart of VIVID Sydney – now the world’s biggest festival of light, music and ideas.

We’ll be presenting a keynote address at the Good Designs Exchange, as well as being on the panel for the forum discussion: ‘Who stole my Design – IP and Design Rights Forum’.

Be sure to keep Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May 2016 in your diary free to attend this exciting event.

11 May 2016