A registered design protects the way a product looks. This may include its 3D/2D shape or configuration, colour scheme, surface pattern or ornamentation. The registration provides an exclusive right to exploit products embodying the design for commercial purposes.
A registered design stays in force for an initial period of five years and may then be renewed (once only) for a further five year period.
A design is only eligible for registration if it is 'new'. This means that the design must not have been disclosed, through use or publication, anywhere in the world before applying for registration.
The design must also be 'distinctive'. This means that the design must be substantially different in overall impression to all other designs that have been disclosed, through use or publication, anywhere in the world before the application date.
To obtain design protection, an application must be prepared and filed. Once filed, you then have 6 months in which to request 'registration' or 'publication' of the design (if not already requested at the time of filing). Requesting publication does not lead to any legally enforceable rights but it does serve to block any competitors from obtaining protection for your design. If registration is requested, then your application will be subjected to a formalities check and then, assuming it passes, proceed to registration.
Once registered, you are not entitled to enforce your design (or threaten to do so) unless and until your design has been examined and certified. During examination, your design will be evaluated to check that it complies with all of the eligibility requirements. If any issues are identified, then an examination report will be issued and you will be given six months to respond to the issues in an effort to overcome them.
Examination is not mandatory and may be requested at any time during the term of your registration. You may, for example, decide to defer examination and only file an examination request if and when infringing articles appear on the market.
The Australian Designs Office (IP Australia) has published the following video on YouTube which provides an informative case study about registered designs