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As a designer, your creative work is one of your most valuable assets. That creative work can include graphics, website design, user experience (UX) frameworks, fashion or other types of design. However, without the right intellectual property (IP) protections, people could steal or profit off your work without your permission. Therefore, protecting your IP means protecting your business’s reputation and profitability. This article explains how you can protect your IP as a designer. 

How Do I Protect My IP?

Your IP is a vital asset that gives you brand and customer recognition. The table below sets out five legal processes that can be used to protect or manage your IP.


Legal Process How Does It Protect Your IP?
Trade Mark Registration Gives you the exclusive rights to use that name, logo, or other distinguishing mark within the category in which you sell your goods or services.
Design Registration Protects the visual appearance of your product
Copyright Protects the expression of your ideas, such as your book or your artwork
Commercial Contracts Your commercial contracts should state how your IP will be handled by your customers
IP Licence Agreement Gives another party the right to use your IP


These legal processes not only protect your creative work, but also your business’ brand. An IP strategy that integrates all five processes will ensure your customers and other businesses will recognise your products as valuable assets that belong to you.

1. Trade Mark Registration

A trade mark is a sign, usually a name or a logo, used to set your business apart from others. Branding and image plays an important role in any business, particularly in creative fields where there is fierce competition for quality products.Therefore, you should protect the signs associated with your business to deter copycats and ensure your customers recognise your brand. 

To register a trade mark in Australia, you have to file your trade mark through IP Australia. You may want to file trade mark applications in any overseas countries if you wish to trade internationally. Once registered, you have an enforceable right to use your trade marks to market your business and monetise your designs.

You cannot register a design itself as a trade mark. However, having a registered trade mark is vital to growing your brand. 

2. Design Registration

Design registration is a type of IP protection that allows you to protect the visual look (such as the shape, appearance or configuration) of a product. You can receive design registration from IP Australia for an initial five-year period.

Design registration protects the appearance of the product, but not its functionality. To register your design, it needs to be new, as well as unique and distinct from other existing designs.

Your design is not considered unique if it resembles an existing design, regardless of whether that design is registered. In addition, no one outside of you must know about the design before you apply for design registration.

3. Copyright

If you design an artistic product, you may be covered by copyright. Copyright is free and occurs when you express your ideas in an artistic form. For example, once you have put pen to paper or paintbrush to canvas, this material is protected. Copyright protection allows you to use, modify or publish what you have created. However, an artistic work cannot be covered by copyright and design registration at the same time.

For example, if you drew a detailed picture of a coffee mug, copyright will protect the drawing. However, once you start making the mugs and selling them, copyright no longer applies. You will then require design registration to protect your mug design.



In the above example, you may be better off seeking design registration early in the design process if you intend to turn your product sketches into physical, well-designed products for sale. Otherwise, your design may not be considered “new” enough to warrant registration. 

4. Commercial Contracts

Your commercial contracts play an important role in IP protection, especially if you are selling your designs online. The two most important contracts for online sales include website terms of use and sales terms and condition.

Your website terms of use will govern how visitors to your website can interact with the IP on your website.

For example, your terms of use may ban people from copying any images or descriptions of your products advertised on your website without your permission.

Your sales terms and conditions, on the other hand, protect you when people buy your products through the website. A clause in your contract could state your customers cannot use, copy, broadcast, or manipulate your IP without your permission.

5. IP Licence Agreement

You may want an IP licence agreement for other businesses to be able to license your designs. Your agreement gives those businesses the right to use your IP. You may choose to license your design to enlist the help of someone to market your design, or as an additional source of revenue.

For example, you have designed an elegant bathroom tap and you wish to protect the design. However, you do not have the time or resources to market and sell the product. Therefore, you can license your design to a manufacturer who will make and sell the product on your behalf. Your agreement with the manufacturer should have a clause that gives you access to the profits for each product sold.

Key Takeaways

As a designer, you must protect your IP or risk your competitors exploiting your hard work. The five legal processes that you can rely upon to safeguard your IP include: 

  1. trade mark registration;
  2. design registration;
  3. copyright;
  4. commercial contracts; and
  5. an IP licence agreement

If you have any questions, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.


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