In December 2012, President Obama signed into the law the Patent Treaties Implementation Act of 2012, which will make the U.S. a party to the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (the Hague System). The Hague System is an international registration system that allows applicants to file for design protection in several jurisdictions by means of a single international application filed with the International Bureau of The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Applicants would no longer have to hassle with filing for design protection directly in individual jurisdictions, which can be a costly and cumbersome process.
Many news outlets are generating excitement over the advantages of using such a single application filing system to obtain world-wide protection. However, before U.S. patent practitioners get too excited about recommending the use of the Hague System to their clients for international design patent filings, it is important to recognize that there are very few major jurisdictions that are currently parties to the Hague System. The current major jurisdictions that follow the Hague System include only the European Union and the African Intellectual Property Organization. China, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Canada, Australia and South Korea have not yet signed on. With so many major jurisdictions not yet parties to the Hague System, the scope of world-wide protection obtainable under this system is currently extremely limited.
Some are predicting that the U.S. adoption of the Hague System will cause other key countries to also consider adoption. For example, news outlets are reporting that Japan, South Korea and China are interested in adoption. However, it will likely take several years for each of these countries to complete the adoption process.
Until more jurisdictions become parties of the Hague System, it may be too soon for U.S. applicants to reap all of the key benefits of the Hague System. Be sure your patent filing strategy considers which jurisdictions are important to your business before moving forward with filing for design patent protection using the Hague System.