USA and Japan join the Hague Agreement for International Designs

In a long-anticipated development, the USA and Japan have now deposited their instruments of accession to the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Hague Agreement will take effect for the USA and Japan as from 13 May 2015. This brings the number of countries for which International Design protection may be obtained, including all those in the European Union to 79.

The International Design Registration has been available to companies and individuals based in the European Union since 2008. An International Design application can designate any of the states and regions in the system, including the Community Design, which covers all member states of the EU and which is administered by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). Although the Community Design has proved to be very popular, with over 80,000 applications each year, use of the International Design system has by comparison been quite limited, with only about 3,000 applications per year. No doubt this has been due to the limited number of contracting countries which, apart from the European Union, have also only included two of the leading G20 economies: South Korea and Turkey.

Advantages of the International Design system over the filing of separate national design applications include the convenience and economy of a single filing with one set of official fees and one registration covering multiple countries and regions. The system avoids the need to prepare translations and accommodates variations in the subsequent processing or examination by each national or regional office. Renewal of the International Design is also centrally administered by WIPO, with a consequent reduction in costs.

It is expected that the addition of Japan and the USA to the list of available states will result in a significant increase in the number of applicants making use of the International Design system.