In good news for creative businesses, there has been progress made with extending the options available under the Hague system for registered design protection.
Whilst patents have the Patent Cooperation Treaty and trade marks have the Madrid System for applying for IP rights internationally, there has generally been less international cooperation in the field of the protection of designs. The Hague System for protecting international designs has been in existence in one form or another since the 1930s, but its relatively poor coverage has to date made it much less attractive – and so less frequently used – than its cousins in other fields. At present, any company or person with nationality or residence in a Hague country – which includes all of the European Union – can file a Hague design application, but the coverage outside of the EU is patchy at best. The option of covering the EU with one application already exists via the Community design registration system. Therefore although the Hague system does allow multiple countries to be covered by a single design application, for many companies the countries other than the EU that can be accessed by the system are of less commercial interest, making the option less attractive.
This is likely to change shortly, as the United States and Japan deposit their instruments of accession to the Hague Agreement today (13 February 2015). The Hague Agreement should therefore enter into force in those countries as of 13 May 2015.
From that date, a single registered design application can be filed under the Hague system that will cover the US, Japan, the European Union and most of non-EU western Europe. This is likely to be significantly more cost efficient than having to file separate design applications in each of those countries.
We would therefore expect usage of the Hague System to increase after these new countries join, as the system is approaching a “critical mass” where its regular use is likely to be cost effective.