Are Australian design registrations cost-efficient?

Are Australian design registrations cost-efficient? – 16 October 2015

Design registrations are the Australian equivalents of design patents available in other countries. In theory, they provide protection for the appearance of ‘new and distinctive products’. A recent decision[1] of the Australian Designs Office demonstrates just how limited that protection can be.

In a nutshell, a registration of this design:

was interpreted to not to cover:

Each of the designs relates to a ‘piston (aka reciprocating) type refrigeration compressor, with a semi-hermetic housing’. The visual differences between the piston covers were found to be sufficient to set the two designs apart. A similar outcome was reached in relation to three other registrations.

The decision illustrates the amount of change that may be sufficient to ‘design around’ a competitor’s registration. That amount will vary from product to product. Generally speaking, if a registered design is a radical departure from earlier designs, then more of a change will be required to avoid infringement.

Design registrations are often viewed as low cost alternatives to patents, although in our view they can be less cost-efficient. What is the value of a design registration if your competitors can easily design around its coverage? Of course, you are getting the deterrent value of marking your product with a design registration number, and sometimes that may well be good value – so long as you understand what you are getting.

Further reading

[1] Bitzer Kuehlmaschinenbau GmbH [2015] ADO 1 (4 February 2015)

Authored by

Ben Mott Patent Attorney & Mechanical Engineer Ben Mott

Mechanical Engineer & Patent Attorney