Australia’s current Designs Act was passed in 2003 and commenced in 2004. Given its age, and concerns that have been raised over the years, the Australian Government has appointed an independent body – The Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) – to advise on the effectiveness of the Designs Act in supporting innovation.

As part of this process ACIP has released an Issues Paper (available here: Review of the Designs System). The paper outlines a number of identified issues and seeks submissions on these and any other issues of potential relevance. The closing date for submissions is 31 October 2013.

Although the initial Government direction appears to have been specifically with respect to stimulating innovation by Australian users, it is comforting to note that the endorsed terms of reference for the investigation are not so limited. This is particularly important given the increase in the number of foreign users of the Australian design system since the commencement of the current Designs Act.

ACIP conducted investigations and identified the following as being key areas of concern:

  • The duration of design protection.
  • Whether a grace period should be available.
  • The use of Statements of Newness and Distinctiveness.
  • Whether it should be possible to defer publication.
  • Whether a system of Unregistered Design Rights (UDRs) would be beneficial.
  • Whether Australia should accede to The Hague System.
  • Whether additional border protection measures would be beneficial.
  • The overlap of registered design rights with other IP rights.
  • Whether the threshold of registrability is satisfactory.
  • Confusion regarding the registration/publication/examination process.
  • Whether changes are required in light of new technologies, such as 3D printing technologies and graphical user interfaces.

The purpose of the Issues Paper is to provide a framework, and ACIP invites written submission in response. In this regard the paper sets forth 22 specific questions (though notes any other relevant comments are also welcome). The closing date for submissions is 31 October 2013.