Chapter 1 - Classification

Date Published

1.1  Introduction

Classification means sorting things into groups or classes based on their similarities.  All designs are applied to products.  As there is no system for classifying designs, it is the products which are sorted into classes.  The classification of the products is based on their function, i.e. purpose or use for which the product is intended.

Design applications are classified in order to make searching for similar designs much easier.  As searching is carried out by the public, legal representatives, overseas design offices as well as IP Australia, correct classification is extremely important.  If registered designs are not classified correctly a search will not be effective.

1.2  Classification System

The classification system used in Australia is based on the on the "International Classification For Industrial Designs", (IDC) also called the Locarno Classification as it was established by the Locarno Agreement.  Australia is not a party to this agreement, but the classification system is still used by this office.  The 11th edition of the Locarno classification has 32 classes, the majority of which are further divided into sub-classes.

In Australia the sub-classes are further divided into sub-subclasses based on specific function/purpose of the product in that sub-class.  For example:


05 – Class (Textile piece goods, Artificial and Natural sheet material)

06 – Sub-class (Artificial and Natural sheet material)

A – Sub sub-class (Wallpaper)

1.3  Resources

The Australian Designs Classification Codes can be accessed through the IP Australia website and is based on the Locarno Classification.

The Locarno Classification can be accessed through the WIPO website and contains a list of classes, an alphabetical listing of products, a list of classes and sub-classes, with explanatory notes and the General Remarks.

1.4  Finding the right Class

A classification will already be assigned following filing. However, the classification should be reviewed to ensure its accuracy. The information shown in the application is used to determine the correct class.  The initial starting point should be the name of the product offered by the applicant. Ensure that the name of the product correlates to what is shown in the representations.

1.4.1 Once the product name has been identified, a brief search of the Register for the product to which the design relates may give insight to a suitable classification. It may be necessary to translate the applicant's provided product name to its generic form, e.g. "oral interpersonal communication device" to "telephone". When using this method, always consult the Australian Designs Classification Codes to determine whether the classification is appropriate.

The above is method for classifying will not always be effective. The following procedures may help with the less straightforward classifications.

1.4.2  (A) Another Word

Try to find another word that might describe the product, i.e. footwear could be shoe, storage furniture could be cabinet etc. (The particular style of product names found in Locarno become more familiar with frequent use.) Then use this other word to classify the product.

1.4.3 (B) Similar Word

Try to find the name of a similar product, i.e. stool to chair, pick to shovel, timepiece to watch or clock, diaper to nappy etc. Then use this similar word to classify the product.

1.4.4  (C) Purpose

If the use or purpose of the product is apparent, the “list of classes” or the “list of classes and sub-classes with explanatory notes” in Locarno can be used to identify possible classes that the product may fit into. After finding possible classes and/or sub-classes, the “list of goods in class order” should be consulted to try and find similar product(s).

1.4.5 (D) Owner

A search of the Owner’s earlier designs (in relation to similar products) can be useful to determine an appropriate classification

1.4.6 Statement of Newness and Distinctiveness (SoND)

If supplied, a SoND may give further detail in relation to the product which may assist in determining the most appropriate class(es) - also refer Chapter 9.1.

1.5  Sub-classes (Sub sub-classes)

Once the product is classified, check if the sub-class has been divided further into a set of sub-subclasses. If it does it will have to be further classified into that sub-subclass. Go through each sub-subclass and see if one suits the product. If not, it goes in the "Z" sub-subclass (also referred to as “NES” (Not Elsewhere Specified)).

1.6  Case of Doubt

Sometimes the product names and representations are so vague that it is not possible to accurately classify the design. In this instance, a tentative classification should be made. In these cases,  more information should be requested when formalities are checked, which may result in an amendment of the classification when the product is clearly determined.

1.7  Multiple Classification

At times a single product may have more than one classification. This is rare but acceptable. An example is a folding beach chair with an umbrella and cooler attachments.

There may be occasions where a product could be classified in more than one class. For example, toner cartridges can be classified in 14-02, 16-03 or 18-02, depending upon use. Rather than classifying this product in all three classes, clarification should be sought from the applicant to ensure that the most appropriate class is selected.

1.8  Multiple Designs for more than one Product

When a design application contains multiple designs applied to different products, all of the products must belong to the same Locarno class. They may belong to different sub-classes, but they must belong to the same class.

When it is clear that not all of the products shown in a multiple design application fit in the same Locarno class, a deficiency notice should be sent, advising the applicant to delete or exclude one or more of the designs.

1.9  Multiple Designs for one Product

More than one design for a single product will only need one classification.

1.10  Common Design in Relation to more than one Product

When an application is for a single design and more than one product is both named and shown, each product should be classified accordingly.  There is no restriction to Locarno Classification as affects 1.8.

1.11  Difficult Cases

If classification for a particular product proves difficult you should seek advice from the Team Leader of Designs Examination.