10.7. Product: Component part of a complex product

Date Published

A complex product is a product that has at least 2 replaceable component parts and can be disassembled and reassembled (s 5). To satisfy this definition at least one representation of the complex product should show its assembled form, see Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Limited [2021] ADO 1 at 28. The assembled form should display the component parts and demonstrate physical connection of elements.

A component part is a replaceable part of a complex product. A component part can be a product in its own right if it is made separately from the complex product. Generally, a component part will be sold separately for replacement purposes.

A complex product must permit disassembly and reassembly

The mere fact that a product is made of numerous components does not make it a complex product. A product is a complex product only if it permits disassembly and reassembly. For example, a product where components are held together with screws is inherently a complex product because the component parts can be disassembled and reassembled. But a tyre tread is an inherent part of a tyre that is not capable of disassembly and reassembly. See Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Limited [2021] ADO 1, also at 28:

…’assembly’ involves parts being put together, in the sense of being physically connected, to create one assembled thing.

A camera has a locking mechanism on its plastic housing. The locking mechanism is designed to be removed for camera repairs, so it is a component part of a complex product. However, even though a cable tie has a locking mechanism as well, the locking mechanism is not designed to be undone, so it is not a component part of a complex product (the cable tie cannot be disassembled and then reassembled).

Where the components are held together in a way that prevents them from being physically separated – for example, where they are welded, riveted or glued – then on the face of it the product does not contain parts that permit disassembly/reassembly.

An owner may argue that the component parts of a product are replaceable even though they are welded, riveted or glued (for example). In that case, the owner will need to demonstrate that the product is capable of being disassembled/reassembled – for example, by showing that component parts are commercially available for replacement purposes or by providing a declaration from a repairer or other relevantly qualified person.

The mere fact that something is ‘replaceable’ does not make the product a complex product. For example, merely gluing a ‘replacement’ sole onto the worn sole of a shoe does not involve disassembly/reassembly of the shoe.

Registering a complex product

A design owner can apply for design protection for a component part as well as an assembled whole product (a complex product). But if they have protected only the complex product, they will not have automatically protected the component parts. So the applicant must specify whether they wish to register:

  • the complex product only, or
  • the complex product and the component parts, or
  • just the component parts.

There can be difficulties if the representations show different components of a product and where the design application does not specify whether the application is in respect of one design (the assembled product) or plural designs (the assembled product and/or individual components).

This issue should be resolved at the formalities assessment stage when the formalities officer establishes the number of designs being applied for in the application (and the corresponding filing fee).

If the application is for a single design consisting of different components applied to a single product, the representations should show:

  • how the components are formed together
  • what the assembled product looks like
  • how the components interact with each other.

Examination of a complex product

If a component part of a complex product has been registered, and examination is to take place, the assessment of newness and distinctiveness will be based on the product (component part) in isolation from the complex product.

Where there is a citation whose relevance depends on the interpretation of whether a product is an entire product, or a component part of a complex product, and it is not clear which is correct, the examiner in the first instance will object on the basis of the interpretation that gives rise to the ground for revocation.

See Assessing newness and distinctiveness for information on assessing the newness and distinctiveness of complex products / component parts.​​​​​​​

Amended Reasons

Amended Reason Date Amended

2021 ADO 1 addition.