Introduction to Registered Designs


Did you know its possible to register a design? It’s different from a patent or a trade mark registration. A registered design protects the appearance of a product as resulting from one or more of its ‘visual features’.

What visual features can be registered?

Visual features include the shape, configuration, pattern and ornamentation of the product, but they do not include the feel of the product or the materials used.

What are the requirements for registration?

In order for a design to be registered, the design needs to be ‘new’ and ‘distinctive’. A design is ‘new’ if it has not been publicly used in Australia, or published in a document anywhere in the world (including on the Internet) before the application is filed.

A design is ‘distinctive’ if it is not ‘substantially similar in overall impression’ to other designs already in the public domain. Sometimes clients run into problems because they have used or advertised their products before filing an application.

What rights does a registered design confer?

A registered design can be a valuable commercial asset.  The owner of a registered design has the exclusive right to:

  • make the product in Australia
  • import the product into Australia
  • sell the product in Australia
  • use the product in any way for the purposes of trade or business
  • authorise others to use the product.

How long does it take?

If all goes smoothly, a design can be registered just a few months after the initial application. Examination and certification (which are not required in all cases) can take four to 10 months.

How long does a design registration last for?

The initial registration lasts for five years, and the design will expire at that time unless it is renewed. The design can be renewed for one further five year period, giving a maximum of 10 years of registration.

Can I register my design overseas?

Yes.  Most countries allow registration of designs in some form or other.  The laws vary from country to country, but you can claim your Australian filing date if you file overseas within six months of your Australian application.