26 November 2023 marked the 70th anniversary of the passing into law of the Designs Act 1953, which governs the registration of designs in New Zealand.
This rather outdated and underused statute remains in force (largely unamended) as the 'ugly duckling' of New Zealand’s registered intellectual property legislation. Indeed, the seminal text on New Zealand intellectual property law, Brown & Grant (1989), describes the Act as of "little relevance" and "only limited use."
By way of comparison, its siblings, the Trade Marks Act 1953 and the Patents Act 1953, were replaced with more modern versions in 2002 and 2013 respectively. In addition, the case law database at www.nzlii.org reveals only 17 decisions of the Commissioner of Designs, compared to 1,003 patent decisions and 1,147 trade mark decisions. To the best of our knowledge, there has never been a single appeal to the High Court from a Designs Act decision, and there are only a handful of High Court judgments on design infringement claims. This lack of jurisprudence can be frustrating given the absence in the Act of modern innovations such as a definition of infringement, or even a description of available remedies. Read more