Reconsider treatment of virtual or non-physical designs e.g. allow the consideration of such designs in an active state not just resting state, when considering validity and potentially granting an enforceable right

At a glance

Policy ID: 43

Status: Consultation

Priority: High

Design rights ACIP

Issue summary

In its 2015 Review of the Designs System in Australia, the former Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) recommended that the treatment of virtual or non-physical designs be reconsidered. For example, by allowing consideration of the product in which the virtual or non-physical design is applied to in its active state, not just its resting state, when considering validity. The Australian Government accepted the recommendation in May 2016 and committed IP Australia to carry out further consultation.

Non-physical or virtual designs are designs that impact the appearance of products but which are implemented via software on screens, such as designs relating to screen displays, graphical user interfaces and screen icons. There are a large number of registered designs that relate to graphical user interfaces and other non-physical designs, although very few of these registrations are certified. As a result, the status of protection of non-physical or virtual designs in Australia is uncertain.


  • Policy development 4 September 2017
  • Consultation 31 October 2019 to 20 December 2019
  • Policy development 20 December 2019
  • On hold 12 May 2020
  • Status reviewed August 2020
  • Consultation 13 June 2023


IP Australia is consulting on proposed changes to Australia’s designs system for a more modern and accessible design rights system that drives innovation and delivers greater benefits to the Australian economy. 

The consultation covers three topics:  

  • Virtual designs — the protection of virtual, non-physical and active-state state designs (including screen displays, screen icons and graphical user interfaces [GUIs]) 
  • Partial designs — the protection of only part of a product made in one piece
  • Incremental designs — the protection of designs as they move through incremental improvements as the design process progresses. 

Find out more about the consultation and have your say at

IP Australia previously consulted on this issue from 31 October to 20 December 2019.

Following our consultation, this issue was not progressed. However, through our Designs Reform Project we have identified further evidence to support reform on this issue.

Policy feedback

You can provide feedback on this policy through the form below.


By clicking the submit button below, you consent to any personal information you provide through this form being handled in accordance with the IP Australia Privacy Policy.