What is a registered design?
A registered design is a form of IP for protecting a new visual appearance of a product. Typically, the features of the product that are protected are the shape or configuration of the product, or the pattern or ornamentation on the product, or combinations of these. However, it is possible for other visual features to be protected as well.
Examples of types of products that can be protected are bottles and other containers, items of furniture, machine components, curtains having patterns, etc. In fact, just about any type of product having suitable new visual features can potentially be protected.
Sometimes, the features that are protected are aesthetic features (e.g. the artistic design of a lamp, or pattern on an item of clothing). However, under Australian law, functional features can also be protected (e.g. the shape of a bracket forming part of a technical fitting, features of a container that are necessary for the production process of the container, the shape of a boat’s hull that assists with movement of the boat through the water, etc).
An Australian registered design gives the owner of the design the exclusive right in Australia (i.e. a monopoly) to commercially exploit the design (i.e. to make, hire, sell, use, import, etc, a product that embodies the design). As a result, the owner may be able to stop somebody else from infringing the registered design, and may be able to claim monetary compensation from that person or company for infringement that has occurred.
What is the benefit of a registered design?
There are many circumstances where the outer appearance of a product can hold significant value. This can be the case even if the product is not of a technical nature suitable for obtaining a patent or if there is nothing technologically innovative about the product. On the other hand, sometimes a registered design can be useful to supplement the protection given by a patent.
The value in the outer appearance of the product could be as a result of the artistic flair or even the technical skill of the designer.
As a result, a registered design can be an extremely valuable commercial asset for giving a person or business an advantage over competitors, by preventing them from making, using, selling or importing products that have the same overall impression as the product to which the registered design relates.
Often, a design is the result of much creativity, imagination, technical know-how, research, and/or investment in time and money. If other people could freely copy your design, they could take advantage of all your valuable input while minimising their own investment. This could give them a commercial advantage over you. But a registered design can prevent this from happening.
Is it worth it to apply?
The question of whether to apply for a registered design is usually a commercial decision. The expected cost of the application process (i.e. applying for, and obtaining, a registered design) and the cost of marketing the product, should be weighed against the expected profits or commercial benefit that can be derived from the product or design registration.
Fortunately, for designs, the costs are relatively contained, and this makes it easier to assess what will need to be spent. also, an important factor is managing the costs, to try to spend the smallest amount possible for the biggest potential gain. At Ascot MartinTM, we try to tip the balance in favour of our clients by having a very competitive cost structure, and advising our clients how they can keep their costs to a minimum at any one time.