On 13 February 2015 the US and Japan completed the necessary legal acts to become a part of the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement.  The Hague Agreement on Industrial Designs is a system permitting a single application to be filed covering multiple jurisdictions.  After 13 May 2015 it should be possible to file designs via the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement designating the US and Japan.  Applicants need to be residents of or citizens of a state that is within the jurisdiction of a Geneva Act member Office, which may be through national membership (e.g. Norway), or could be via regional membership (e.g. European Community). 

The Hague system results in cost savings for applicants compared to filing multiple separate applications in different jurisdictions.  Residents or nationals of a Geneva Act jurisdiction may file applications designating any other Geneva Act member Office.  WIPO maintains a listing of member states.  It is anticipated that the addition of US and Japan to major designs offices like OHIM (European Community) will make the Hague system more attractive to new joiners.  In addition to cost savings compared to filing multiple separate applications in different jurisdictions it is likely that there will also be cost savings when an applicant seeks to file multiple designs simultaneously, since the Hague system permits more than one separate design to be included in a single application with a reduction in the fees that are due.  This is not a feature of all national systems, and it was not previously possible to do this in the US, for example.

If design registrations are under consideration for a way to protect new innovations then filings making use of the Hague system may now be the most attractive option. Although it is not currently possible to designate the US or Japan, it is now possible to file a priority application (for example at the UKIPO taking advantage of the low official fees) with the intention of filing a new Hague agreement application within the 6 month priority period allowed for registered design applications. After 13 May one could either file a priority application to defer the decision on overseas countries by 6 months and also defer the costs, it would be possible to simply file immediately using the Hague system in order to more quickly obtain registrations in the jurisdictions of interest.

The particular rules that will apply to US and Japanese designs originating from the international system will be revealed in due course, as well as the rates of fees. This may affect the optimum filing strategy.