Fashion designers like to believe their garment is new,
unique and hopefully the next big trend. The general belief is that
because the designer has developed the design, they are entitled to
certain intellectual property protection over that piece, including
stopping others from copying it. This is not always the
A design is protected in Australia if it is registered under the
Designs Act (the Act). Unless your garment is classified as a
'work of artistic craftsmanship' under the Copyright Act
(think Lady Gaga's
meat dress), only a registered design will give you enforceable
rights for a maximum of 10 years to commercially use, licence, sell
or protect your design.
A design is the overall appearance of a product that makes it
unique. In fashion, this includes the shape, pattern and
ornamentation on a garment. This can be as simple as a sleeve with
ruffles on a Target t-shirt, or the silhouette of a couture gown by
De La Renta. It does not include the feel or texture of the
material (unless, like Lady Gaga's meat dress, the material
affects the appearance of the garment).
Under the Act, a design is registrable if it passes the test of
being 'new' and 'distinctive'. That is, it must not
be identical or substantially similar to any other design
previously disclosed anywhere in the world and Australia (including
the internet); whether or not it was independently developed.
Some tips on protecting your intellectual property rights for
Do your research and ensure your design does not infringe
someone else's registered design.
Keep your design secret until the design is registered. So
don't exhibit it, sell copies of it or upload it onto the
Once registered, include "registered design"
statements on your swing tags to dissuade potential copiers.
Don't bother trying to register a dress made of meat; this
has already been done.
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