On March: 17, 2014.the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) issued Order No. 68 Promulgating "SIPO's Decision on Amendments to Guidelines for Patent Examination." Under this order, graphic user interfaces (GUJ) will become eligible for design patent protection as of May 1, 2014.

Summary of Updated Amendments to the Guidelines for Patent Examination

  1. Amendment to Chapter 3, Section 4.2 of Part I

Added one new paragraph after the third paragraph under Chapter 3, Section 4.2 of Part I:

"As far as the design of the product containing a graphic user interface (GUI) is concerned .the view of the design of the whole product shall be submitted. Where GUI is a dynamic image, an Applicant shall submit at least the aforesaid view of the design of the whole product in one state and may submit only the view(s) of the key frame(s) in the other states, provided that the views submitted shall be able to unambiguously determine the changing trend of the animation in the dynamic image."

  1. Amendment to Chapter 3, Section 4.3 of Part I

Added one new item after ltem(6) in the third paragraph under Chapter 3, Section 4.3 of Part I:

"(7) as regard to a design patent application for a product containing GUI, it shall indicate the use of the GUI, the area where the GUI is in the product, the manner of human-computer interaction, the state of change, and so on if necessary. "

  1. Amendment to Chapter 3, Section 7.2 of Part I

Deleted the last sentence of the third paragraph under Chapter 3. Section 7.2 of Part I. "the pattern of a product shall be permanent and visible, and not flickering or visible only under specific conditions.”

  1. Amendment to Chapter 3. Section 7.4 of Part I

Amended ltem(11) in the first paragraph under Chapter 3, Section 7.4 of Part I to

"(11) game interface and the pattern shown on a display device of a product that does nothing with human-computer interaction or fulfillment of functions of the product, such as wallpaper on an electronic screen, an image shown when powered on or off, a text and graphic layout of a webpage of a website."

  1. Amendment to Chapter 5, Section 6.1 of Part IV

Added one new item after Item(4) in the second paragraph under Chapter 5, Section 6.1 of Part IV:

"(5) as regards a product design containing GUI, the GUI thereof has more notable influence on the overall visual effect where designs in the remaining parts of the patent concerned are usua l designs."

Our comment and advice

  1. The old Guidelines provide that as one of the design elements of the product that constitute a design alone or in combination under the Chinese Patent Law, “the pattern of a product shall be permanent and visible, and not flickering or visible only under specific conditions.” Consequently, the pattern shown when the product is electrified, such as the pattern on the electronic watch dial, the pattern on the screen of the mobile phone, software interface, and so has been ineligible for design patent protection. The new Guidelines deleted the provision that “the pattern of a product shall be permanent and visible, and not flickering or visible only under specific conditions,” removed GUI from the list of the prescribed situations that are ineligible for design patent protection. However, game interface and the pattern shown on a display device of a product, that does nothing with human-computer interaction or fulfilment of functions of the product, such as wallpaper on an electronic screen, an image shown when powered on or off, a text and graphic layout of a website’s page are unpatentable for design yet.
  2. Under the Chinese Patent Law, a design is the design of a product, and the carrier of a design must be a product. Therefore, GUI alone cannot constitute a design. It is a product containing GUI, such as a mobile phone, a smart watch, a table personal computer and so on that can obtain a patent protection for design.
  3. For filing a patent application for design of a product containing GUI, the view of the design of the whole product shall be submitted. GUI may be statistic or dynamic. For dynamic GUI, the animation shall be shown clearly and explicitly by submitting one or more views of key frames in the dynamic GUI.
  4. In the brief explanation to be filled with a patent application for design of a product containing GUI, the following contents shall be indicated if necessary: the use of the GUI, the area where the GUI is in the product, the manner of human-computer interaction, the state of change, and so on.
  5. In determining whether there is significant difference between a design patent of a product containing GUI and a prior design, the GUI may be considered as the design element that has more notable influence on the overall visual effect.
  6. You may consider re-filling with SIPO a patent application for design of a product containing GUI that was previously rejected on or after May1, 2014, as long as the design has not yet known to the public before the re-filling date.