The Laws of Design in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

28 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2017

Date Written: 2016


This article provides a cultural and historical account of how various laws that relate to design developed, from the 17th through 20th centuries, through a study of their interactions with the furniture design industry. The article examines the complex development of intellectual property laws that apply to furniture design, and demonstrates how the furniture design craft (and later, industry) relied on different facets of the intellectual property system at different stages in its development. It demonstrates how the industry shifted intellectual property regimes as a response to the absence of protection within design rights for the modernist furniture style of the 20th century. From these studies, the article demonstrates how the design industry’s claim for increased protection flows from the idea that there is a protectable ‘aura of authenticity’ around iconic designs — a claim that is largely indefensible and provides little basis for expanded legal protection.

Keywords: Design, Copyright, Trademark, Patent, Modernism

Suggested Citation

Hunter, Dan and Wood, Suzannah, The Laws of Design in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (2016). Adelaide Law Review, Vol. 37, No. 2, 2016. Available at SSRN:

Dan Hunter (Contact Author)

Swinburne Law School ( email )

Cnr Wakefield and William Streets, Hawthorn Victor
3122 Victoria, Victoria 3122

Suzannah Wood

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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