Oh man, I clearly did not want to write this post.
This one has been a long time coming. Part of the problem is that Registered Designs are relentlessly boring. From the point of view of a philosophy of IP it doesn't get more utilitarian than RDs.
Designs evolved in parallel with Copyright. In fact Designs were originally protected as a special class of copyrights for patterns on linen. Hang on to your hats incredulous readers because it only gets more exciting from here.
Sorry. No it doesn't.
A design is the overall appearance of a product. This includes the shape, configuration, pattern and ornamentation which, when applied to a product, give it a unique visual appearance. [Source]
|The shape of the Holden Monaro:|
a Registered Design(!)
But why make this distinction? Why would a unique and distinctive design be copyrighted 49 times but then magically lose that protection once the 50th copy is made? Could it be because copyright is there to promote the higher ideals: science, art and learning? And if all you're doing is making lots of cups then clearly you aren't doing any of those things? And therefore... the state isn't prepared to lend the full weight of copyright law to something as ignoble as cup making or linen printing?
I don't know. I think I should know... I probably once did know... but finding out again would probably involve looking up Ricketson and $6,285.09 exceeds my budget.