Due to the extensive use of consumer electronics and the unceasingly innovative designs of Graphical User Interfaces (GUI), China has joined many jurisdictions of the world to allow GUIs as patentable subject matter for designs by amending its Patent Examination Guidelines. These amended Guidelines took effect as of May 1, 2014.

The amended Guidelines provide that a patentable GUI must relate to human-machine interaction or relate to carrying out the function of a product. Accordingly, game interfaces, on-screen wallpapers, start-up and shut-down screen views, as well as editing function of texts and graphics of Internet WebPages are not patentable subject matter, for the reason that they are not related to facilitation or operations regarding the function of a product.

In addition, a patentable GUI design must be applied to an electronic device that can be deemed as a whole product, such as a smart phone or a washing machine. The amended Guidelines require that, when applying for a GUI design patent, the drawings submitted must show the entire product contour and upon which the GUI design claimed is applied. If a GUI design contains animated graphic images, at least one drawing demonstrating one graphic image of the animation on the whole product shall be submitted. Other key views of the GUI animation can be submitted to confirm the changeable status of graphic images in the animated GUI design.

A specification may also be necessary to explain the function and use of the GUI, the location where the GUI applied on the product, the method of human-machine interface, as well as identification of changeable statuses.

From the released new rules of GUI designs, it is believe that SIPO attempts to introduce a narrow version of GUI protection as China’s first step to harmonize with the world.