China joins the Hague System
China has been steadily overhauling its IP system for well over a decade. Last week, in the latest development, China joined WIPO’s Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs bringing the total number of countries covered by the Hague System to 94.
China is the largest market that remained outside of the Hague System until now. The EU, US, UK and Japan are all already members and the system is increasingly popular: the number of designs applied for rose over 20% in 2021. It is widely used by industries as diverse as fashion, computing and games.
The Hague System aims to provide a simple, efficient and cheaper route for applicants in seeking design protection in multiple territories via a single application, in one language with one set of fees.
To prepare for accession to the Hague System, China has recently updated its design law to align with the provisions under the Hague Agreement. The main areas of amendments include:
increasing the term of design protection from 10 to 15 years;
providing protection for partial designs; and
allowing design applications to claim domestic priority.
The Hague System will enter into force in China on 5 May 2022.
It is worth remembering that Hong Kong and Macao have separate IP offices and their IP systems are governed by local laws. Therefore, they are unaffected by this change.
What does this mean in practice?
From 5 May 2022, international registered design protection in China will become quicker, cheaper and easier. Similarly, companies and designers based in China will be able to seek international protection for their designs via WIPO in any of the 94 countries covered by the Hague System so we may see an expansion in registered design filings around the world.