China to join the International Design system in May 2022

By Frouke Hekker,

The system for design protection continues to expand with China the latest country to file an instrument of accession. The country will complete this process on 5 May 2022 making now a good time to consider whether your IP rights in China are adequately protected, says Frouke Hekker.

As with the equivalent trademark system, the more countries that join the international design system, the better it is for companies that operate internationally, especially when those countries are of such commercial significance as China. China’s accession to the international design system follows that of Mexico in 2020, Belarus in 2021 and Jamaica’s recent accession. 

What is design protection?

Design rights cover the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation. 

The international system to register design rights, known as the International Design system or the Hague Union, is regulated by the Hague Agreement and its supplementary protocols. The system is an important tool for brand owners and innovative companies, as it makes it possible for them to apply for design protection in one or more member states through a single application to the international IP authority, WIPO, in Geneva.

China’s accession brings the number of member states covered by the international design system to 77 (including the European Union).

Is registering an international design the right choice for you?

The fact that an increasing number of jurisdictions can be designated in an international design registration makes it an important option for businesses. This is especially the case for the launch of a new design feature that is to be marketed in several countries or where a business plans to enter new markets. As with IP in general, it is important to check that your rights are sufficiently protected in the jurisdictions in which you sell, trade or transport goods.

To be eligible for protection under the international system, applicants must be a national of one of the member states, be resident or have a “real and effective establishment of business” in that state (in other words: actually trade from the jurisdiction concerned).

If your business produces, trades or offers products or services in China then now is the ideal time to review whether your IP rights are sufficiently protected in the country. (For more on trademark protection in China, read our article 'If your products are "Made in China", protect your trademarks there too'.) 

Please speak to your Novagraaf attorney or contact us below for specific advice on the opportunities afforded by the international design registration system in China and elsewhere.

Frouke Hekker is Manager, Learning & Development at Novagraaf and leads the Novagraaf Academy. She is based in Amsterdam.

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