Mention paper, and most of us will think of notebooks. But its uses extend far beyond note-taking and jamming printers. From bank notes to books, wet wipes to wallpaper, many of us depend on paper products every day, often without realizing it. Globally, the paper product industry is worth more than USD 800 billion, and is expected to top USD 1 trillion by 2025.
The Daio Paper Corporation is a Japanese company that manufactures a broad range of paper products. Founded in 1943 on the island of Shikoku, the company first made a name for itself as a producer of newspapers and paperboard. Since the 1970s Daio Paper has expanded into the sanitary paper market with the manufacture of tissue paper, toilet paper and, more recently, absorbent products such as baby diapers. The past decade has seen the company open diaper factories in Thailand, China and Indonesia, and begin full-scale overseas expansion to build its portfolio.
The sanitary paper market has opened up new sales channels and opportunities for Daio Paper. However, in such a big and rapidly expanding industry it can be difficult for a business to distinguish itself from competitors. Creating and maintaining a distinct corporate identity and brand is therefore essential if a company wants to stand out from the crowd and earn recognition and loyalty from customers.
Daio Paper has responded to this challenge with unique industrial designs for its sanitary products. Industrial designs are a form of intellectual property (IP) that protect a commercial product’s ornamental features, such as its shape, color and patterns. By registering a product’s industrial design with a national or regional IP office, the design’s owner has the right to prevent others from making, selling or importing products with copycat designs.
Industrial designs are granted in each country as well as patents and trademarks. For companies expanding their international operations, like Daio Paper, this raises the costly and time-consuming prospect of having to register their designs in every country they want to conduct business in.
The Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs reduces this burden on businesses by enabling the registration of designs in multiple countries through a single application.
Following Japan’s inclusion in the Hague System in 2015, Daio Paper was quick to recognize the benefits of using the system. Not only would it reduce costs and simplify procedures for the company, it would also allow them to prevent counterfeit products being produced and sold in countries where Daio Paper was expanding into. Using the Hague System, Daio Paper has registered the designs of its 'Night Junior’ disposable diaper and its ‘Elis’ sanitary pad in several countries.
However, some countries they planned to sell these products in, such as China and Thailand, were not part of the Hague System.
For those countries, Daio Paper registered these designs using the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. First adopted in 1883, the Paris Convention is a milestone in international IP protection, marking the first major step to help creators protect their patents, industrial designs and other forms of IP in countries other than their own. As with the Hague System, it is also administered by WIPO.
By using both the Hague System and the Paris Convention, Daio Paper has successfully prevented competitors from selling products based on its own designs, bolstering its international expansion and helping to secure future business. However, the threat of design infringement remains, for Daio Paper and any other company looking to establish a distinct brand and identity.
Fortunately, countries continue to join the Hague System – in the past decade alone 16 countries became members. And China joined the Hague system on 5 February 2022, you can file a design application to China through the Hague system from 5 May 2022. Each new member makes the international protection of industrial designs more smooth and limits opportunities for counterfeiters, ensuring that creative and innovative designs continue to benefit their creators.