Touchscreen Computer

Design Registrations

Protecting appearances

By law, you have the right to register as yours the look or aesthetics of an article, provided these are new and distinctive. This is done by registering it as a design, under the Designs Act.

In Australia, exclusivity from registration can be yours for 10 years.  Most other countries provide a longer term.

If the article would perform a useful function irrespective of its shape or outward appearance, then it may be better protected by a patent.  This is because a design is limited to appearance.  If a competitor makes an article that functions in the same way as yours, but has a different shape, you would not be able to stop them, as they would not be infringing your registered design.  But if you have protected its functionality with a patent, you may be able to rely on it instead.

Therefore, registering a design is a good way of protecting a fancy shape that competitors will want to copy, but a patent will protect the concept of operation.