If you are a successful designer, you are paid to generate ideas. Intellectual property (IP) rights exist to protect the expression of ideas. IP is therefore closely linked to the value of design, allowing control of the ideas which drive design business.
An IP right is provided by a state (e.g. Australia) in exchange for disclosing an idea. Some rights arise automatically. Others require pro-active steps, such as applying for registration.
Design-related IP rights include:
Copyright protects against direct copying of original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, for up to 70 years after the author’s death. This automatically applies to works including copy (text), drawings, photographs, and sculpture.
Registered design rights protect against exploiting a product design which is the same, or sufficiently similar, to a registered design, for up to 10 years from registration. Design rights apply to any industrial design, including jewellery and textile patterns – provided it was confidential before seeking registration.
Registered trade mark rights protect against exploiting a brand element which is the same, or sufficiently similar, to a registered trade mark, potentially indefinitely from registration. Trade mark rights apply to virtually any element which distinguishes a brand, including names, logos, slogans, colours, and shapes.
Most copying (infringement) of IP can be prevented by simply notifying the copier of the existence of IP rights. Litigation is rare and often not necessary. It pays to know your rights and be assertive!
To provide a strong basis for maintaining control of your ideas, seek registration of key IP. Registered IP can provide broad protection, streamline enforcement and, for some design disciplines, may be the only recourse to protect IP. Registration is usually simple and affordable – registering an industrial design can cost as little as the $250 official fee.
Originally published by the Design Institute of Australia