What is a registered design?

A registered design protects the shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation of a product - that is, what gives a product a unique appearance.

Why register a design?

Where you have a product that has an appealing shape or appearance, and that shape or appearance contributes to a consumer's preference or desire for that product, you should consider protecting the shape or appearance by registering a design.

Having a registered design ensures that a competitor cannot have a product with the same shape or appearance.

If a competitor was able to do that, they would be 'free riding' on your innovation (i.e. by developing a product with the same shape or appearance), and would be infringing your registered design. For example, anyone can produce another electric kettle without infringing your registered design, but if they produce an electric kettle with the same shape or appearance as your kettle, your registered design would be infringed.

Some examples of products that are protected by registered designs are shown in the table below. In each of these examples, it is not the product that is protected, but its shape or appearance.

3 dimensional productsWhat the registered design protects
Mobile phone Its shape and its appearance
Chair The unique shape of a chair, or of its components (e.g. legs)
Bottle The shape of the bottle
Car headlights The shape of the car headlights
Electric kettle The shape and appearance of the kettle
Toy The shape and appearance of the toy
2 dimensional productsWhat the registered design protects
Wallpaper The pattern on the wallpaper
Fabric The fabric pattern

If you wanted to protect a fully automatic hoist for bedridden patients in hospital, so that anyone making a fully automatic hoist, with any design, would infringe, then you would need patent protection (which would apply if your hoist meets the requirements for a patent, including newness or novelty).