Designs protect the shape or configuration of an article. Designs can be registered in both Australia and New Zealand.
A Design registration protects the way something looks, not the way it works.
A Design cannot be registered for a known shape or configuration. i.e. the design must be new.
Be careful to keep your design confidential until after it is filed at the Intellectual Property Office (IP Australia or IPONZ). Disclosing your design outside of confidence before applying for registration of a design will likely result in any subsequent registration being invalid.
Designs can be registered and for new shapes, or patterns – eg jewellery design, furniture, child’s toy, footwear or clothing, shape of a new car headlight and textile patterns.
A registered design is recommended for any type of new visual design that is or is likely to become industrially applied (manufactured in bulk).
A design registration is infringed if something looks similar or identical to the registered design. Unlike with copyright, it is not necessary to prove copying, only similarity.
The amount of proof (and therefore expected cost) of enforcing a design registration is generally expected to be lower than a similar copyright infringement action.
Benefits of Registering a Registered Design
Easier to stop others from copying your designs
Prevents others registering your design or a similar design on the register and bringing an action against you for infringing their design registrations.
Other Things To Consider
Distinctive 3-dimensional shapes which are not new, might be protected by trade mark registration. Both Australia and New Zealand permit registration of 3-dimensional marks, but the shape must be sufficiently distinctive to enable registration.
There is copyright in 3D works (such as sculptures) in both Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, if the work is also industrially applied (more than 50 copies produced with permission of the author/artist) published as a Registered Design or a patent is applied for and published using drawings of the work then copyright in the 3D work ceases.
A design registration lasts 5 years and can then be renewed for a further 5 years in Australia, giving a total protection time of up to 10 years.
A design registration lasts 5 years and can then be renewed for two further lots of 5 years in New Zealand, giving a total protection time of up to 15 years.