Last updated: 
6 October 2020

A design right protects the overall visual appearance of new and distinctive products.

The overall visual appearance can be a combination of visual features including:

  • shape
  • colour
  • configuration
  • pattern
  • ornamentation.

What design rights protect

A design right aims to protect the visual appearance of a whole product that:

  • has physical and tangible form
  • is manufactured or handmade
  • is produced on a commercial scale.

Here are some examples of designs protected with a design right:

Design number 201214421: Tractor
Design number 201415788: Kettle
Design number 201216320: Tyre for automobile
Design number 201316090: Chair
Design number 201912943: A dress
Design number 201311560: Chocolate

Don’t go public too soon

To have the best chance of protecting your design, you must keep it a secret until you have applied.

Even posting one picture on social media could make it difficult for you to claim a design right and enforce it.

What design rights don’t protect

Design rights don't protect:

  • designs with no physical form, such as concepts, processes and computer graphics
  • how your product works
  • the materials used in your product
  • the size of your product
  • the brand name or logo you have developed for your product
  • partial design features of a product
  • the visual appearance of your product changing over time.

Here are some examples of designs you cannot protect using design rights:

DRP example

Brand name and logo

DRP example

The materials used in your product

DRP example

Partial design features of a product

DRP example


DRP example

How it works

DRP example

Service design

Designs you can’t register

Some designs can't be legally protected with a design right. These include:

Designs which use the word ‘ANZAC’ can’t be legally protected without permission from a relevant authority.

Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge is a term that covers the traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These include the skills, techniques and practices that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people develop, nurture and pass on through generations.

If your design uses something from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, community or nation such as words, images or knowledge, or in a similar style, you may be drawing on Indigenous Knowledge. The misuse of Indigenous Knowledge can be disrespectful and offensive. It can undermine cultural practices and may also affect the economic opportunities available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Learn more about Indigenous Knowledge.

Designs legislation

The legislation which governs the Australian design rights system is: