The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published the Final Rules for implementation of the Hague Agreement for the Registration of Industrial Designs (i.e., design patents). They can be found here. Starting May 13, 2015, U.S.-based applicants can file a single international design application directly with the USPTO. These applications can be registered and/or examined in 77 countries, either directly or through a member intergovernmental organization (such as the European Union). Korea, Japan, and Singapore are notable member countries.
The Hague Agreement is an international treaty that establishes filing procedures for design patents, similar to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) for utility patents. For example, it harmonizes basic filing requirements across member countries, in effect avoiding complexities related to, for example, foreign language translations, fees, and deadlines for renewal. After an initial formalities review, the application is transmitted to the designated countries where it will be registered or examined according to each particular country’s design patent laws.
The final rules implement a number of significant changes. They include an increase in the patent term from 14 years to 15 years, for all design patent applications filed on or after May 13, 2015. In addition, all applications filed under the Hague Agreement will be published and will be entitled to provisional rights, similar to published utility patent applications. One unexpected change is that the USPTO is removing the requirement to file a petition with the associated fees to file color drawings in all design applications.