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Legal designs on registration system

A NEW Designs Bill has been introduced into Federal Parliament that will, if passed, repeal the current Designs Act that dates back to 1906 and significantly change Australia’s design laws.

The bill is intended to provide a more cost-effective registration system, reducing the duration of design protection from 16 to 10 years, narrowing the scope of designs eligible for protection and making enforcement of design rights easier.

Accordingly, the bill provides that a design must be both new and distinctive.

Assessment of these qualities are to be made in the context of designs previously used in public in Australia or previously published within Australia or anywhere else in the world.

"New" means not identical to any other design and "distinctive" means differing substantially in overall impression from any other design.

Phillips Fox solicitor Indra Grohmann said a new infringements test would target new designs substantially similar in overall impression to previously registered designs.

"The broader test should make it easier for businesses to take action against the trade and counterfeit designer goods," she said.

"The bill also provides protection for manufacturers of spare parts who would otherwise, in making their product, infringe another’s design rights.

"It will not be an infringement to deal in parts intended for use in repairing or restoring the appearance of a more complex object, whether in whole or in part.

"These new provisions will not licence production of parts for use in new machines but are, however, intended to open up the market in spare parts needed to repair existing machinery."

Design registration protects the appearance of manufactured articles, rather than their function or method of construction.

Registration enables design owners to take action against anyone who applies the registered design without permission to their own manufactured articles. Similar protection is also available in most of Australia’s overseas trading partners.

From this issue, For The Record has started running a new section called Legal List that will focus on what is happening in the legal world.

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