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Trademarks, copyrights, designs and patents… an overview part II

Nikola Errington is back this week for part two of her legal glossary*. See part one – trademarks and copyrights – here. Thanks, Nikola!


A design is defined by the relevant statute as “…in relation to a product, means the overall appearance of the product resulting from one or more visual features of the product”. Visual features include the shape, configuration, pattern and ornamentation. They don’t include how the product feels, or what materials it is made of. If these distinctive elements add up to something that makes your product distinctive, you can register the design.
It’s important to note that design registrations don’t cover how things work, and are different from inventions (which may be afforded patent protection, discussed below). For example, Bodum has various design registrations for their kitchen appliances. They didn’t invent the teapot, but they do have design protection for their design of the teapot.


Okay, this is probably the most complicated of these terms, but basically, this will relate to a legal protection for a new invention (including devices, substances, methods or processes), that have a use. Generally, artistic works are not covered by patents. It is important to note that if you tell lots of people about your invention, without imposing a confidentiality agreement, before filing a patent application then you will risk not being able to register since it will form part of the public domain.
However, it is also worth noting that once you do file for an application, you have to fully disclose how it works, what it is made of, how it was made etc. Patents are COMPLICATED. Definitely go and see a professional if you think you have an amazing invention that could make you millions, and keep it hush-hush!
For more information on trademarks, copyrights, patents and designs
IP Australia has a wealth of information on their website for further clarification on some of these terms. There are also Arts Law Centers in most major cities in Australia that may be able to give some free advice. There is also the Institute of Patent and Trademark Attorneys of Australia, that can hook you up with a professional should you need it.*Note that this is simply an explanation of a few key terms and should not be substituted for professional legal advice.

Posted by: Tess McCabe
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