On 13 February 2015, the United States (US) and Japan finalised their entry into the Hague system, an international agreement which allows applicants to register industrial design rights in multiple countries by means of a single application. The Hague system, once considered a slightly obscure international agreement, has now become a much more appealing and commercially relevant alternative for applicants wishing to register designs in more than one country.
The Hague system is administered by WIPO and participating territories can choose to sign up to one or both of two constituent Acts (the Hague Act and the Geneva Act). Applicants from a country party to one Act may seek protection for their designs in those other countries party to the same Act.
Importantly, a single application under the Hague system can include up to 100 separate designs in the same class, allowing costs to be kept down. The fees due depend on which particular countries or territories are designated in the application. A successful international registration lasts for five years but is extendable in five-year periods up to regional time limits. Another key benefit of the Hague system is that registration renewals are managed centrally, simplifying what could otherwise be a complex process for rights holders.
Applicants wishing to achieve protection in the US and Japan will be able to file design applications designating those countries from 13 May 2015. Other territories already covered by the Hague System include the European Union, the African Intellectual Property Organization and Korea (a full list of contracting parties can be found here).