Earlier this week I came across an article making a bold claim that IP Australia had leaked the images of an upcoming Lotus SUV. As is often the case with many Intellectual Property (IP) matters reported by the media, the facts quoted in the article are incorrect.
This particular Australian news story was recycled from a few other online media outlets which featured the same misinformation. Despite increased media attention and public interest in Intellectual Property, such articles show that generally people’s actual understanding of IP is less than ideal. In this instance, Australian Design No. 202211240 was legitimately published as part of routine procedure. For the uninitiated readers of this article, all design registrations (also called design patents in some jurisdictions) must be published after filing so that the public is aware of “live” IP rights. Under the Australian system, the publication must happen within six months from the earliest date of filing of the design in any jurisdiction. In this instance, the parent company Wuhan Lotus Cars Co., Ltd. which is part of the Geely Group (which owns other global brands like Volvo) filed the initial design application with the Chinese Intellectual Property Office on 12th September 2021. The Chinese filing was effectively extended into Australia on 3rd March 2022 within the six-month allowable time-frame. The rules under the Australian Designs Act stipulate that the design must undergo registration and publication which occurred under routine procedures. In a nutshell, the images were not “leaked” by IP Australia as was falsely claimed by several articles.
This disconnect between actual and perceived understanding of IP even among some senior journalists of respectable media outlets may help to explain the surprising hardiness of common misconceptions about intellectual property. For example, this article claims that the Trade Marks Office published the images even though the images used in the article clearly indicate that images have nothing to do with a Trade Mark. It also beggars belief that journalists around the world would simply believe that IP Australia would publish images of a “top secret” car and that there would be no consequences.
I strongly believe that there is room for IP professionals and organisations like IP Australia to engage with journalists so that misleading and inaccurate reporting on IP issues can be ended and journalists do a better job at informing the public about intellectual property news. If you are a journalist and want to avoid some common mistakes, please get in touch with us.