What is a design?

Registered Designs relate to the visual appearance of an article and many designs are eligible for registration with  IPONZ, the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand.

Design Sketching

To be eligible for registration the appearance of your design must not have been known in New Zealand prior to application. The new features of the design can be three dimensional in shape or configuration, or a two dimensional pattern or ornamentation.

Why register a design?

Registering a design formalises your rights and allows the design itself to become a valuable business asset that can be bought, sold, transferred or licensed like any other property.

While all new and original work has automatic copyright protection in New Zealand, it is often harder to enforce those rights. Relying on copyright may also forego your ability to protect your design in other countries.

Registering a design gives you exclusive use of that design in New Zealand for at least five years and up to 15 years.

What if I want to register my design overseas?

If you apply to register a design in New Zealand, you may claim priority rights for an application to register the same design overseas provided the overseas application is filed within six months of the filing date of your New Zealand application.

What is the difference between design and patent protection?

Design registration protects only the external appearance of a manufactured article, especially those novel or original design features that appeal to the eye of a customer.

Patents protect inventions, such as the way an industrial product works.

It is therefore possible to protect the external shape, pattern or ornamentation of an article through a design registration while using a separate patent application to protect its working concept and function.

What features make a design eligible for registration?

To be eligible for registration, the design must:

  • Not be shown publically in New Zealand before the filing date. This means you should keep the design confidential and not publish the design at least until after you’ve filed the application to register. In particular, do not show your design on a website or in publicity pamphlets until after you’ve made your application.
  • Consist of new or original features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament that are applied to an article by any industrial process or means.
  • Have features that appeal to and are judged solely by the eye.
  • Use a shape or configuration not solely dictated by function, if shape or configuration are design features.
  • Not relate to a method or principle of construction.

How can I check for existing designs like mine?

Before you apply to register a design you should check that your design is actually new. Before you take a design to market you should also check whether you might be infringing upon a registered design:

How do I register a design?

Preparation is key to the success of an application.

Step 1

Prepare representations (drawings or pictures) of your design showing it from different views that, together, show the design in full. Label each view “Back view”, “Front view”, etc. All representations need to be clear, readable and suitable for reproduction onto A4 pages.

You can submit as many images as you like to represent the design, with multiple images on single pages. However, representations must be provided in only one of two formats:

  • Line drawings of draughtsperson quality, without any written specifications or dimensions.
  • Photos of the design against a plain backdrop with nothing else in shot.

Each page of representations must be submitted online as a single image file – one file per page.

Step 2

Develop a title for the design. This should be the usual name of the article to which the design is applied. For example, if the design is applied to a chair then the title of the design should be “a chair”. If the design is applied to a set of articles, such as a set of crockery, then the title should be “a set of crockery including dinner plate, desert plate, side plate, saucer and cup”. The title should include the name of the set and the names of the articles of the set. Don’t use fancy names or trade names.

Step 3

Write a Statement of Novelty. This is a brief statement of the novel visual features of your design. Don’t specify any design advantages or include a description of the article, its manufacture or function. Just focus on the visual features.

Statements of Novelty are not required for textiles, wallpaper and lace.

IPONZ suggests that you use one of the following examples as a template by substituting the name of your article in the brackets.

  • If the article’s design appeal is its three-dimensional shape:

    “The design is to be applied to a (food processor) and the novelty resides in the features of shape and configuration as shown in the accompanying representations."

    “The novelty of the design resides in the features of the shape and configuration of the (desk) as shown in the accompanying representations.”

  • If the article’s design appeal is its decorative features:

    “The design is to be applied to a (fork) and the novelty resides in the features of pattern and ornamentation as shown in the accompanying representations."

    “The novelty of the design resides in the features of pattern and ornamentation of a (picture frame) as shown in the accompanying representations.”

Use the free online Design Search function to view more examples of how designs are represented and described on our design database.

Step 4

Go to the  Online Services tab of the IPONZ website and register for an igovt log on.

Step 5

Once you have an igovt logon you can access the IPONZ website and navigate to the online design application form.

Some designs can’t be registered

The following designs can’t be registered:

  • Designs applied to works of sculpture (except if they are to be used as casts or models for mass production).
  • Designs applied to wall plaques and medals.
  • Designs applied to printed matter primarily of a literary or artistic character (book jackets, calendars, certificates, maps, plans, leaflets, etc.).
  • Designs including the unauthorised use of a portrait of a person or a protected emblem. You may be required to provide permission from the person or the owner of the emblem before your design can be registered.
  • Designs that are held to be offensive or illegal.

How long does protection last?

The full term of a design registration is 15 years. A design is initially registered for five years and then  renewal fees are charged at five and 10 years from the application date.

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