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Friday Mar 01, 2013

A New Chapter for Protection of Industrial Design for the United States

Blog by Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea

President Obama’s signature on the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 marked the culmination of a long effort to empower American industrial designers to protect their innovative designs in many of the world’s most active markets. Under this new law, applicants can file a single international design application to acquire global protection. The law serves as the implementing legislation for both the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (“the Hague Agreement”) and the Patent Law Treaty. Its passage late last year paved the way for the U.S. to become a party to the Hague Agreement within the next year.

The Hague Agreement in basic terms is an international registration system allowing industrial design owners to apply for protection in a number of states and/or intergovernmental organizations (such as the European Union) using a single international design application. American industrial design creators—who currently prepare and file separate applications for each jurisdiction—will now be able to file a single, English-language application with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) directly, or indirectly through the USPTO.

Why is this so important for American businesses? In short, it saves money. This new process will also protect small and medium sized businesses that lack a global footprint by enabling them to easily and swiftly acquire design protection in multiple markets.

U.S. membership represents the culmination of about two decades of hard work and dedication by many still at the USPTO, many who have since left, and by a variety of stakeholders in the design community. Of great importance to the design community now is that U.S. membership and participation in the Hague Agreement will serve as a catalyst for membership by other countries—large and small alike—that are actively considering membership, further fostering the protection of innovation in industrial design in a significant way.

U.S. membership is particularly timely because the importance of industrial design in a complex world is continually increasing. Whether in mobile technologies, in manufacturing, or in household appliances, design features increasingly bridge the gap between complex computer operations and a user-friendly interface. Industrial design makes products intuitive, aesthetically appealing, and comfortable to handle.

The USPTO applauds the many individuals whose hard work culminated in President Obama’s signature to the legislation implementing U.S. participation in the Hague Agreement. We are proud to be at the forefront of this next step in improved access to cost-efficient protection for America’s industrial designers, large and small.


If I recall correctly, this will go into effect in Decamber of this year. When will additional implementation information be available? Thanks, Jim Porcelli

Posted by James Porcelli on March 02, 2013 at 03:43 AM EST #

What date or when does the Single International design application come into force? Where and when can individuals file for it? For an individual person, how much does it cost? Are there renewal fees? How long does it last? If an individual person has already filed for a US design patent how can this be changed to a Single International design patent application for an individual person? What countries and territories does it cover? Please tell me where I can find more concrete legal information and costs about the Single internatinoal design application. Very much appreciate your help. Thank you.

Posted by Kitty BALL on March 05, 2013 at 02:50 AM EST #

When will you be rolling out this process? My clients are very interested in using this procedure. Thank you.

Posted by Mitchell Rossman on March 05, 2013 at 10:21 AM EST #

As a British citizen, do i need to have special permission to file for a design patent and a utility patent in the United States? Where can I obtain legal information about this? It would be for a plain and simple indoor feline toy.

Posted by John Dale on March 11, 2013 at 11:23 AM EDT #

Is it correct that foreign applicants will still have to comply with Sec. 112 disclosure requirements for design cases in the U.S? These requirements often involve enhanced drawings compared to drawings typically filed in Europe or Asia. Alternatively, will drawing requirements be relaxed for Hague applications entering the U.S. as a national stage from foreign countries?

Posted by Tom Schneck on April 19, 2013 at 04:55 PM EDT #

Currently, there is yet to be a specific set date with respect to when the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement will go into force in the United States. The Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 (PLTIA) was signed into law by President Obama on December 18, 2012. Title I of the PLTIA concerning the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement sets forth an effective date of the later of “(1) the date that is 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act” or “(2) the date of entry into force of the treaty with respect to the United States.” As such, the Hague Agreement related provisions of the PLTIA will go into effect either December 18, 2013, or if at that time the Hague Agreement is not yet in force in the United States, the date [whenever that may be] upon which the treaty enters into force in the United States. While the United States has signed the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement, pursuant to the Articles of the Treaty it still needs to submit its instrument of ratification with the International Bureau (WIPO) before it becomes a member and the treaty enters into force in the United States. (Article 27 of the Geneva Act) Finally, the Treaty will take effect with respect to the United States three months after the United States deposits its instrument of ratification or at any later date indicated in that instrument [the instrument of ratification]. (Article 28 of the Geneva Act) The USPTO and others in the U.S. Government are actively working to facilitate implementation of the Hague Agreement. Among the steps in this process is the development of a rule package and a request for public comment on that proposed rule package. To the extent you are interested in the proposed rules with respect to U.S. implementation of the Hague Agreement, continue to monitor the Federal Register. It may be noteworthy that implementation of the Hague Agreement is not solely a United States endeavor as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the administrator of the Treaty, also plays a vital role in implementation. Adding to the complexity of the implementation process is the fact that the United States will likely be the first large substantive examination design office to join the Treaty and thus some provisions of the Treaty are being addressed for the very first time. While the Hague system aims to simplify for applicants the filing and pursuit of design protection in member states, the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement was drafted to specifically accommodate not only design registration systems but also design patent systems and their substantive examination process and criteria. As such, the United States will continue to be able to substantively examine Hague applications pursuant to Title 35 including sections 102, 103, 112 etc. Moving on to another topic, the USPTO will accept design applications from both U.S. and foreign citizens alike. -David R. Gerk, Patent Attorney, Office of Policy and External Affairs, USPTO

Posted by David R. Gerk, Patent Attorney, Office of Policy and External Affairs, USPTO on May 13, 2013 at 09:42 AM EDT #

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