On 18 December 2012, President Obama signed into law the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012, amending the Patent Act to implement two patent treaties. The Act includes implementing legislation for the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning International Registration of Industrial Designs as well as the Patent Law Treaty.
Under the Hague system, U.S. applicants may apply for design patent protection in all member countries by filing a single application at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S.P.T.O). Similarly, foreign applicants will also be able to designate the U.S. in design patent applications that are filed in other participating jurisdictions. In fact, a Hague application may designate the U.S. and any of over 40 other jurisdictions. Once the application has been reviewed for certain formalities by the U.S.P.T.O., it will be automatically sent to all of the other designated jurisdictions, where it will proceed to examination and/or registration.
Applicants are allowed to include up to 100 designs within a single Hague application. However, all of the designs must belong to the same class according to the International Classification of Industrial Designs (the Locarno Classification).
The Patent Law Treaty is mostly procedural in nature. The implementing legislation further synchronizes U.S. patent application filing formalities with those of the signatory countries in minor ways.
The Act also includes several other important provisions which provide new benefits to owners of U.S. design patents. International design applications will be published under 35 USC 154(d) and be eligible for provisional rights. The latter would give design patent owners the opportunity to obtain pre-issuance damages for infringement. Additionally, the term of granted design patents will be extended to 15 years for all new design patent applications filed after the Act goes into effect on December 18, 2013