The term "grace period" referes to the period of time prior to the filing date of a patent application within which certain disclosures of the design will not impair the applicant’s ability to obtain the design right. In certain contexts, including in some trade agreements, provisions related to grace period may also be described as “provisions relating to non-prejudicial disclosures.” In the United States, industrial designs benefit from a 12-month grace period from the date of filing.
An effective grace period is critical to ensure that designers are able to protect their new designs from misappropriation. Commercialization of new products is often considered in parallel with protection of design rights in new product development. Thus it is not uncommon for disclosures to take place inadvertently, despite the best efforts of creators to keep their new designs from becoming public. Without an effective grace period, designers could risk losing rights by a disclosure and may not be able to judge whether their new product designs are worth commercializing or merit pursuit of protection.
Global engagement on grace period
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) promotes the implementation of grace period around the world for industrial designs. Several jurisdictions, including Japan and Korea, have recently updated their grace period for designs in a manner that aligns with the 12-month period of the United States. Recent activities and reports include:
- ID5 study: Comparative study of the application of a grace period for industrial design applications (November 2016)
- USPTO event: International forum on protection of industrial designs (February 2021)