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Post #2 of our Top 10 of IP in 2020

The Designs Act 2003 is often the poor second cousin of the IP system in Australia, not getting much attention, but I think this needs to change as technologies such as 3D printing are increasingly adopted and it becomes easier to self-manufacture. 

The Designs Amendment (Advisory Council on Intellectual Property Response) Bill 2020 was introduced into Parliament on 2 December 2020 as the government’s response to the ACIP’s 2015 report of its review of the Designs Act.  This process has been slowly unfolding over recent years.

The amendments are perhaps not headline grabbing, but they will see “more flexibility for designers during the early stages of getting registered design protection” (according to the bill’s Explanatory Memorandum).

The key reform is a new 12 month grace period to apply for design protection after publishing or using a design, instead of publication or release of the design into the public domain automatically resulting in all rights being lost.  This may make the designs system more enticing for many, particularly if designers can relax somewhat about which designs will do well in the marketplace before incurring the costs of registering and protecting them.

This bill does not deal with some other issues including the current relatively short 10 year duration of design protection, nor the copyright-design overlap which was beyond the review’s terms of reference.  The ACIP report in any case considered that addressing new technologies including 3D printing would be “premature” in the face of more pressing reforms.   

However, according to Senator Duniam’s second reading speech in the Senate on 2 December 2020, “This Bill is just the first stage of the Government’s ongoing program of designs reform, with more improvements to come after further consultation.” ☁︎

2020 has seen a very healthy amount of activity in intellectual property law in Australia.  In no particular order, my Top 10 of 2020 series of posts contains my top ten things in IP from the year, and what they might mean for 2021. 

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