On 13 March 2018 the UK ratified its membership of the Hague Agreement for industrial designs. This will come into effect three months from now, meaning that an international design application filed after that date will provide the opportunity for design protection to be obtained in the UK.
Registered designs can be sought for the outward appearance of a product and can offer important protection for new and unique designs. The Hague Agreement for industrial designs allows a single international design application to be filed, in one language and with one set of fees, giving access to registered design protection in over 80 countries (including the EU, US, Japan, South Korea and Russia). This is an effective and efficient way to obtain design protection in multiple different jurisdictions.
Although the European Union (EU) is already a signatory to the Hague Agreement (and thus previously design protection in the UK could be obtained by designating the EU in an international application), the UK's membership of the Hague system allows more flexibility for design applicants in future. An international design application will now be able to designate the UK individually, giving applicants the choice between the EU and the UK.
The UK's ratification of the Hague Agreement is welcome news, in light of the UK's planned departure from the EU, for two main reasons. First, following Brexit, the UK's membership of the Hague Agreement will continue to allow UK applicants to file international design applications. Second, it will continue to allow for registered design protection to be sought in the UK through an international design application, when this is unlikely to be available via the EU route.
The Hague Agreement allows applicants to register a design in any one of the 67 contracting parties through a single application. It provides protection in the territories of up to 82 countries through a single international application and a single set of fees.