The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) recently announced that the United States has deposited the official instruments needed to ratify the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (the “Hague System”). The Hague System allows an applicant to apply for international protection for industrial designs in member countries using a single application filed with the USPTO or with the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”). This promises to make gaining industrial design rights in multiple jurisdictions more efficient and less costly for United States applicants. Previously, United States applicants seeking protection for industrial designs in multiple countries would have to file individual applications in each country in which protection was desired.
An industrial design covers the ornamental or aesthetic features of a product or object. These ornamental or aesthetic features may include the three-dimensional shape of the object or other features, such as patterns or colors. Known in the United States as a design patent, the owner of a registered industrial design may prevent others from making or selling a product that copies the ornamental or aesthetic features that are covered by the industrial design rights.
The Hague System currently has 64 contracting parties including countries such as Japan, Germany, France, and South Korea. An industrial design filed through the Hague System could potentially gain protection in all these member countries using only one application. All Final Rules regarding the USPTO processing and examination of international design applications under the Hague System are expected to go into effect on May 13, 2015.