The Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 signed by President Obama on December 18, 2012 implements the Hague Agreement in the United States. It is intended to provide industrial designs with protection in states and governmental organizations parties to this arrangement through a single international application effected at the WIPO. Before the Hague Agreement, an application had to be filed in every country where protection was desired, resulting in several applications being filed for a single design patent. Under the Hague agreement a single application can provide protection in multiple countries.

An international application under the Hague Agreement does not require a prior national deposit, and can be filed either at the WIPO or at the national office. The application may be in English, French or Spanish.

When filing an application under the Hague Agreement, one must either be a citizen of a Contracting Party or a Member State of an international organization that is a Contracting Party. Alternatively, one must have either a residence or an habitual residence on the territory of a Contracting Party, and one must have an effective industrial or commercial establishment on the territory of a Contracting Party.

The Hague Agreement consists of three International Treaties, but since 2010 only two of them are still enforced:  The Geneva Act (1999) and The Hague Act (1960). (The London Act of 1934 was frozen in 2012).

The Geneva Act and the Hague Act are independent from each other, such that one country can join one or both. Accordingly, when asking for protection under the Hague Agreement in several countries, it is crucial to confirm that those countries are parties to the same Act. The United States are party to the Geneva Act but not the Hague Act. Consequently, the United States can ask protection in countries party to the same act (the Geneva Act) but cannot ask for protection in a country which is party only to the Hague act.

The Hague Agreement increases the protection duration for design patents in the US from 14 years to 15 years. This increase in protection duration is based on an initial 5 year protection which may be renewed for an additional 5 years, every 5 years until the total protection is reached, in countries where protection is desired. The total duration of design patent protection may vary according to each country’s rules.

Under the Hague agreement, an international application may contain a maximum of 100 Designs. All designs must belong to the same Locarno classification, which is an International Classification for Industrial Designs. Application costs are expected to increase with the number of designs claimed.

Under the Hague Agreement, publication takes place six months after the date of the international registration. However, an applicant may request immediate publication or request a deferment of publication.

Audrey Pastoret