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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.