Strengthening Design Protection

China joined the Hague Agreement concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs (the Hague System for short) on February 5, 2022. This makes it possible to apply for protection of a design in more than 90 countries worldwide simultaneously via one application – including China from May 5, 2022.

China’s accession had already been announced and indicated in the amendment to the Patent Law, in which the patent term of designs was raised to the international standard of 15 years.

Already since 2021, there have been increased efforts in China to improve the protection of (industrial) designs. This was evident, in addition to the adjustment of laws and strategic plans to improve the IP system, among other things, in the fact that several regional Administrations for Market Regulation (AMR), most notably Shenzhen, have taken up the cause of rapid administrative enforcement of designs. Until now, this was only possible in practice for trademark infringements.

Effective action against infringement of the rights to a design was previously only possible in a time-consuming and cost-intensive manner via administrative or civil lawsuits. However, the approach of an administrative complaint to the local AMR has been used in practice only once so far since 2021. The reason for this is unclear. Are applications not filed by rights holders? Or are they rejected by the authority? Is there not the necessary competence in the authority to be able to assess the infringement of a design?

Last year, the AMR in Shenzhen was restructured and, for example, took over the competence for administrative procedures for copyright infringement. It may be due to this restructuring that there has been no administrative enforcement of designs to date. It remains to be seen whether administrative enforcement of designs will pick up speed or whether it will disappear from the scene again.

Picture: Aurélien Adoue

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