The Hague Agreement is a system for the centralized application and registration of industrial designs or design patents as they are known in the United States. The Hague Agreement became effective in the United States on May 13, 2015 and permits an applicant to seek protection of the aesthetic or nonfunctional aspects of a product design in participating member countries around the world with a single application.
The Hague system, born out of the Hague Agreement, is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and has been in place in various jurisdictions around the world. The United States, however, did not implement the Hague system until recently. On December 18, 2012, the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 (PLTIA) was signed into law in the United States implementing the 1999 Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement concerning the international registration of industrial designs, effective May 13, 2015.
Prior to the implementation of the Hague system, a U.S. applicant seeking global protection was required to file separate design applications in each country or jurisdiction around the world for which protection was sought and had to comply with the formal requirements, including translations, imposed by each jurisdiction. The Hague system simplifies this process and permits an application to seek protection in participating countries around the world by filing a single standardized application in a single language.
The Hague system not only provides a simplified procedural avenue for filing design applications, but also facilitates the subsequent management of issued protections that may result. For example, a change in ownership or a change in the name or address of the patent owner can be centrally recorded in the International Register and have effect in all the designated jurisdictions.
The implementation of the Hague system in the United States results in a reduction of costs for applicants seeking to obtain industrial design rights globally, in addition to providing for centralized international registration and renewal of registrations. In the process of implementing the Hague system in the United States, the term of U.S. design patent rights have also been increased from 14 to 15 years from the date of issue. Applicants still need to be aware that the requirements and standards for obtaining protection may differ in the various participating countries but the centralized application process has been significantly streamlined for applicants seeking global protection.