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Registered Designs

Industrial designers can protect original creative work in New Zealand and Australia with design registrations.  Given the high value of stylish forms and features of devices and products in a rapidly changing market, and reliance on creative packaging to sell otherwise plain looking products, keeping a competitive edge with protecting valuable designs is highly regarded.


Industrial designs covering aesthetic features of a device or product can be protected for up to 15 years in New Zealand, and a shorter term in Australia.  Registration offers a monopoly right to the design features or appearance of an article or object.  This does not mean that the design must have high artistic merit to be protected.  As long as the design has some visual or aesthetic appeal, it will likely be entitled to design protection in New Zealand and Australia. 


The visual appeal can be the shape and configuration, or pattern and ornamentation, as applied to the article.  The article, for example, could be a stylish water bottle, lampstand or chair.  Protection for a pattern or ornamentation of an article includes designs such as engravings or patterns applied to wallpaper or tiles.      


The design protection does not extend to protecting any of the functional features of the article. If the article also embodies a functional innovation, it may be advisable to separately protect functional innovations with a patent.  It is noted that dual patent and design registration covering both the patentable idea and design features is possible.  For example, covering the design of a chair having very stylish looking arm rests, seat and legs, and a patent protecting innovative ergonomic features in its construction.


The overall investment in a design registration is a fraction of the cost of a patent, and takes typically a quarter of the timeframe, and offers a deterrent and marketing value for a design that is considered useful for business enterprise.


Talk to us about your designs and how we can assist you with this popular form of monopoly IP protection.


Procedure for Registration

A design application in New Zealand or Australia includes either drawings or photographs of the design.  The drawings or photographs must show all the design features and therefore usually several views of the article are represented.


An application should also include a statement defining the new design features applied to the article to avoid uncertainty as to what aspects of the object or article are being protected.   


Once the application is filed it will undergo an examination.  An examiner will at least conduct a search of the register of designs and determine whether the design is new or original.  If the examiner is satisfied that the design is new, and the protection being sought is clearly defined with design features being clearly shown in the photographs or drawings, the application should be accepted.     


Unlike patent and trade mark applications, a design application is not subjected to an opposition period.  If the application is accepted, a Certificate of Registration will be issued.  Details of the design are not published until after registration. 


The monopoly protection in a registered design in New Zealand can cover a 15 year period provided renewal fees are paid at the 5th and 10th years of the registration.


Protection Internationally

If international protection is sought then according to an international convention, applications must be filed within 6 months of filing the New Zealand application.  This deadline is important when the design has been marketed or articles sold after the filing of the New Zealand application.


The result of filing overseas within 6 months is that the overseas application can claim the date of filing the New Zealand application.  Most countries representing New Zealand's export markets are party to this international convention.  However, there are some exceptions and we recommend you contact us to discuss the countries of interest before the design is marketed, and we can advise you on a suitable design registration strategy.


Advantages of a Registered Design

Registration serves as a notice to designers and potential infringers that a particular design has been protected by a monopoly right.  In this way a registration acts as a deterrent to potential copiers. As details of the design are on public record, the design rights can be searched by competitors who market similar objects or articles to the design.


Ownership in the particular design is certain and in the event of copying of the design, the owner is likely to more easily obtain an interim injunction retraining the forbidden activity than if the owner has relied on unregistered copyright protection.


Importantly, as the design registration is a monopoly right in New Zealand or Australia, even innocent parties who may have incidentally designed a very similar article having the same design features as the registered design can be stopped from their activities.  Further, there is no defence available to an infringement action that an infringer was unaware of the existence of the registered design.


As the process is relatively short and not complicated compared with pursuing patent protection, it is considered by many designers to be a cost-effective form of monopoly right.


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