On Friday, February 13, 2015, the United States deposited an instrument of ratification to the 1999 Geneva Act (Geneva Act) of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (Hague Agreement) with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). With this final step by the United States to become a signatory to the Geneva Act, qualifying U.S. applicants will be able to more easily protect their design patents in member countries and intergovernmental organizations (Contracting Parties) that have also signed on to the Geneva Act.
Specifically, the registration system (the Hague System) allows a qualifying applicant to file a single application, under a single fee structure with up to 100 industrial designs, in order to apply for protection under the laws of any one of the contracting parties designated by the applicant. Examination of the design application remains subject to each designated contracting parties’ rules. As such, notwithstanding the ability to include up to 100 designs on an international application, applicants filing in the United States for a design patent are permitted a single design invention per application, which may include multiple embodiments. Embodiments determined to be unique designs may require divisional applications and consequently, additional filing fees. The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) rules governing the processing and examination of design patents filed under an international application will go into effect on May 13, 2015, and publication in the Federal Register will follow the United States’ ratification to the Geneva Act.