IP Report 2019

Designs

Design rights protect visual features which, when applied to a product, give it a unique appearance. These features may include a product’s shape, ornamentation, pattern or configuration.

Registering a design allows the owner to exclude others from commercially exploiting the design for up to 10 years. For designs to be eligible for protection, they must be new and distinctive—that is, they must be dissimilar in overall impression to designs that constitute prior art.

In Australia, designs are not substantively examined upon registration. To enable their enforcement, design rights must be certified via a substantive examination process.

Design right applications and registrations: The number of design right applications reached a record high in 2018, increasing to 7 816 from 7 708 in 2017. The 2018 growth rate in applications, being around one per cent, is well below the five per cent average annual growth experienced over the past decade.

Figure 12 shows that design registrations tend to increase as applications increase over time. Registrations and applications reached ten- year highs in 2018. Growth in registrations and applications flattened after an upsurge in 2017. The 7 367 designs registered in 2018 amounted to an increase of less than half a per cent above the 7 337 registrations in 2017.

Figure 12 is a graph showing designs applications and registrations from 2009 to 2018

Country of origin: In 2018, 3 095 design applications were from Australian residents, while the remaining 4 721 applications were from non-resident applicants. The share of applications filed by Australian residents has steadily decreased over the past decade (Figure 13), from 50 per cent in 2009 to 40 per cent in 2018.

Figure 13 is a graph of design applications by residents and non-residents from 2009 to 2018

While non-residents accounted for a larger share of total applications in 2018, their applications fell by nearly three per cent from their level in 2017. In contrast, resident applications increased by over eight per cent in the same period.

The US remains the largest foreign source of design right applications, accounting for around a quarter of all applications in 2018. The second- and third-ranked countries were China and the UK.

Top applicants: In 2018, the top 10 applicants, from whom came the largest numbers of applications, represented a diverse range of countries and industries. Australian-based fashion house Zimmerman Wear was the top applicant, filing a total of 118 applications in 2018. US-based SharkNinja was ranked second and was the top non-resident applicant, filing 66 applications. Whereas Zimmerman Wear’s applications mainly focused in Clothing, SharkNinja’s applications spanned multiple product classes including Machines, Appliances for preparing food and drink, Packaging, and Household goods.

Companies renowned for their design capabilities featured among the ten top-ranked applicants for design rights—Fisher & Paykel Healthcare from New Zealand ranked third; Google from the US ranked fourth; and Cartier International from Switzerland ranked fifth.

Top product classes: The Locarno Classification System is the framework of product classes used internationally and in Australia to classify registered designs. In 2018, the Locarno class to which the highest number of design applications was attributed was Means of transport or hoisting (class 12). Eight per cent of all class attributions went to this class, which encompasses all land, sea, air and space vehicles including their component parts and accessories. The second-ranked class was Articles of clothing and haberdashery (class 2), which received slightly less than eight per cent of all class attributions.

Analysing the Locarno classes of applications provides insight into the focus of different applicant groups. Chapter 7 of this report summarises a study, by IP Australia and The University of Melbourne, which shows that resident and non-resident applicants differ markedly in the types of designs they register.

Danka Stijepovic: Lamp design

Danka Stijepovic is a designer based in Dee Why (NSW) with a passion for sustainable architecture. Her work ranges from residential architecture to urban and town planning, with a portfolio of work that includes the design of a shipping container kiosk.

To support her business, and to add her own unique design style to her work, Stijepovic designs original pieces of furniture. And in 2018 Stijepovic registered her first design for protection in Australia—a lamp inspired by mid-century Danish design.

‘As a building designer, I was always interested in interior design,’ she said. ‘The process began two years ago from an initial hand drawn image and then to a CAD design. I then had to find the right carpenter or furniture maker willing to make a prototype of each lamp—both floor and table versions.’

Advice from friends and colleagues was that protecting her design would be a good move to build her business. Despite initially being overwhelmed by the legally complicated topic of design protection, Stijepovic sought guidance from IP Australia and the Copyright Council to determine whether design protection was important and how to achieve it. And she applied independently for protection.

‘It was a long journey and every step was hard,’ she said. ‘But once it’s done, it’s a nice feeling of accomplishment.’

With the lamp now registered, Stijepovic is now in the marketing stage, preparing marketing materials and identifying the best avenues for sales.

And her advice for others seeking to protect their designs?

‘Just go for it. At times, it feels like it is a mixture of luck mixed with lots of work. But try to find the best way and support to accomplish each of the steps along the process. As the old saying goes—where there’s a will, there is a way!’


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