A design is limited monopoly for look and appearance of a product or article. Design protection focuses on the aesthetic features of the product rather than the functional aspects.
In Australia, a design can be registered, if includes the following features:
- ‘new’ – meaning it must not be identical to any design previously disclosed anywhere in the world (including on the internet), nor any design previously used in Australia; and
- ‘distinctive’ – meaning it must not be substantially similar in overall impression to any design previously published anywhere in the world (including on the internet), nor any design previously used in Australia.
Some designs are not registrable by law. These include designs for medals, layouts for integrated circuits, Australian currency and scandalous designs. A scandalous design is one which is shocking or offensive to the public or an individual’s sense of propriety or morality.
Care must be taken to ensure that the design has not been previously disclosed, used or sold publicly prior to the filing date. If you have already publicly disclosed your design (e.g. exhibited, sold copies, posted your design on a website), you may not be able to register it as it may not be considered to be new and distinctive.
Design protection typically lasts up to ten years from the filing date and needs to be renewal on the fifth anniversary.