International Design Registrations under the Hague System

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The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reports increased use of its Hague international registered design system during 2011.

Designs protect the appearance of a product, which can include any part of or the whole of a product and can include lines, shape, contours, textures, materials and ornamentation.

In general each separate country has its own separate national registered design system. However there are some regional registered design systems such as the EU design (Registered Community Design) administered by The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante. In addition, there are currently 59 designations which can be designated in an international design (as of October 2011) including individual countries such as Turkey, Singapore and the republic of Korea and the whole of the EU as a single designation. 

The international design registration system under the Hague agreement is administered by WIPO and has been in existence for more than 100 years. Registration of designs is  available to nationals of participating countries. The international design system also allows an applicant who does not reside in a contracting party of the Hague system to apply for protection so long as applicants have a connection to a member country – be it a state or an intergovernmental organization.

However, for UK companies historically, the Hague System has not been widely used, primarily because the range of countries available in the system is limited and does not include important countries such as the United States, Japan or China.

However the European Union joined the system a few years ago, and since then the international system has seen a rapid increase in usage.  The costs of using the international design system are not much different to those of an EU registered design, and much less than the cost of several individual national design applications, and with the advantage that other countries can also be included.

Design filings under the Hague system in 2011 had the following trends:    

In addition to the 5.7% increase in international design applications in 2011, international registrations recorded by WIPO reached 2,363 (containing 12,033 designs), or a 6.6% growth compared to the previous year. The largest increases in the number of designs filed came from applicants in Germany (+47%), Switzerland (+18%), Norway (+112%), Croatia (+1,087%) (now 95 filings), Liechtenstein (+50%), and Denmark (+216%).       

Among users, applicants in Germany ranked first, with 3,395 designs (28.2% of the total) followed by Switzerland (2,787 designs or 23.2%), the United States of America (1,287 designs or 10.7%), France (912 designs or 7.6%), Netherlands (656 designs or 5.5%) and Italy (634 designs or 5.3%). Turkey, Austria, Belgium and Spain were also among the top ten, each with more than 150 individual design registrations.           

The European Union (EU) was the most designated contracting party in terms of the number of designs for which protection was requested. Designations of the EU contained 8,440 designs (76.2% of the total number of designs). The next most designated were Switzerland with 7,593 designs (68.5%), Turkey with 4,631 designs (41.8%) and Ukraine with 2,550 designs (23 %).   

Concerning individual applicant companies, Procter & Gamble (USA) topped the list of largest users with 167 design applications received by WIPO in 2011, followed by Swatch Group (Switzerland), Philips (Netherlands), Gillette Company (USA), Daimler AG (Germany), Nestlé (Switzerland), Vestel (Turkey), Volkswagen (Germany), LIDL (Germany) and Braun (Germany). 

Packaging (mostly for foodstuff and cosmetics) and the containers for the transport and handling of goods, such as plastic bottles accounted for 13.2% of the international registrations. This was followed by clocks and watches (9.6%) and furnishing (7.3%)".        

Article Published March 16, 2012