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Case study - Designs Reform Project

In 2019, IP Australia initiated a year-long exploratory review of Australia’s design economy and the role of design rights in incentivising design innovation. The review encompassed the entire design ecosystem, which was found to contribute $67.5 billion per annum to Australia’s GDP. In the 2020–21 financial year, the Designs Reform Project delivered a suite of short- and longterm initiatives based on the findings of the review. These initiatives have been focused on removing barriers preventing a broad segment of the design community from accessing and benefiting from the design rights system.

The project embedded a human-centred design framework from the outset and invested time to develop a strong and diverse stakeholder network. This enabled us to better understand the challenges and experiences of stakeholders and provided a solid foundation to work with our stakeholders to address problems that were uncovered in the research. For example, we worked with peak industry bodies, tertiary institutions and design businesses to develop a suite of educational resources to improve knowledge of design rights, their purpose and how to make use of them. We successfully co-designed case studies with the Australian Design Council and partnered with the Australian Fashion Council and the Design Institute of Australia on our Melbourne Design Week 2021 events.

We delivered several initiatives to improve and simplify the experience for those deciding whether to register a design.

  • Our ‘IP for designers’ page, primarily for designers and SMEs, provides a suite of case studies, presentations, short videos, animations and tools. These can assist with collaborations and help businesses make informed decisions about protecting designs as part of a broader commercialisation strategy.
  • Our refreshed website content makes it easier to access essential information about how to manage and protect designs, the basics of design rights and how the application process works.
  • Our new online filing system for design applications is helping to make the experience of applying for design rights faster and easier. This is part of a comprehensive transformation of IP Australia’s online services platform.
  • Our refreshed designs examination manual, which design experts rely on to make important decisions about IP, was rewritten and restructured to make the information clearer and easier to find.
  • We are also pursuing several longer-term policy and legislation initiatives that would significantly change the design rights system. These consider:
    • how to introduce protection that is more compatible with the iterative design process
    • how to expand the design registration system to non-physical or ‘virtual’ products and parts of products. Research has confirmed that there is industry interest in these changes, with an overall likely benefit to the economy.
  • We used human-centred design across our policy work as part of an innovative mixed methods approach. The policy development work was grounded in relevant and clear policy problems and produced a clear set of evidence-based recommendations.
  • While the Designs Reform Project successfully closed at the end of the financial year, we are continuing with the human-centred design approach that underpinned the work, and we have transitioned ongoing reform measures into everyday practice across IP Australia.