Apple uses design registrations, do you?

It’s well-known that Apple has ongoing litigation against Samsung in multiple jurisdictions, all over the world. What isn’t generally as well known is that a lot of these cases are fought over design registrations (or design patents as they’re called in the USA).

Design registrations are different to patents in that they only cover what something looks like, not how it functions. For a more in-depth analysis of Apple vs Samsung and their use of design registrations, NZ patent attorney firm AJ Park has a good article.

Registering your product’s design in consumer goods can be a very good way to get protection for your product. As a bonus, it’s often far faster, easier and cheaper than a standard patent of invention.

As an international company, Apple’s design registrations aren’t just filed in the USA. There are a quite a few registered at the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ) too. While there’s been no court cases against Samsung in New Zealand (yet), they do serve as a potential way to stop cheap imports and allow a way to stop third party ripoffs causing problems like the recently publicised issue of iPhone 5 chargers blowing up.

In celebration of design registrations, today’s search pictures of the day are:

New Zealand design registrations

Apple is a prolific company, that uses design registrations alongside traditional patents. In New Zealand this year they have filed for multiple design registrations, including ones for their new “Earpods”. A company probably can’t get a patent for a a new type of headphone (if the change is only in the way it looks using existing technology), but they can still get some protection using a design registration.

Apple, NZ registration #417369:

NZ design registration

But, Apple is not the only company that uses a lot of design registrations. It’s a good tool to protect the look and feel of your new products, even those that don’t contain new technology suitable for a design registration.

Some other well-known companies that have registered designs this year include:

Sunbeam, NZ registration #412247:

NZ design registration

Kraft Foods, NZ registration #415412: (some kind of chocolate bar?)

NZ design registration

Michael Hill, NZ registration #415474:

NZ design registration

Nintendo Co., Ltd., NZ registration #415601:

NZ design registration intellectual property

Toyota, NZ registration #416592:

NZ design intellectual property

So, as you can see, design registrations are a good way of getting quick protection for new designs, whether or not the technology is new. They can also be used to complement your existing patents when you get to the stage of selling products. Apple has helped publicise them, but they are used in by a range of companies, selling products from chocolate to cars!

How would you use design registrations in your business?

Things to point out: A design registration must be applied for before public disclosure of your design. You can also file a New Zealand application to file internationally, but you must do this within six months of your NZ application, otherwise you can run up against the fact that your local application is considered public disclosure for subsequent applications. So, it is easier than a normal patent, but there are traps for unwary players. Ask your IP strategist or advisor if you think design registration may be for you.

The word Lightning is also an Apple, Inc. registered trade mark in New Zealand.

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