WIPO Welcomes Accession by EC to Key Industrial Designs Treaty

Geneva, September 25, 2007

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, welcomed the accession by the European Community (EC) to the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, which offers businesses in all participating countries a simple, affordable and efficient way of obtaining and maintaining their industrial designs.

"The accession of the European Community marks a milestone in the development of the Hague system for the international registration of industrial designs. This is a major step towards broadening the geographical scope of the international design registration system", said Dr. Idris. He added “The accession of the EC creates an interface between WIPO’s international industrial design operations and those of the EC’s industrial design system allowing users to obtain protection in the whole of the EC as well as the other members of the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement by filing one single application for the registration of their industrial designs.”

Such an international registration will have effect in as many members of the Geneva Act as identified in the application for registration, except those that refuse protection within the required time-limit. If protection is not refused by the EC’s industrial design office, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trademarks and Designs) (OHIM), protection of the industrial designs in question will be effective in all 27 EC member states just as if the applicant had applied or registered directly with OHIM.

The EC’s instrument of accession was deposited with the Director General of WIPO on September 24, 2007 and its accession will become effective as from January 1, 2008.

Under the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement, intergovernmental organizations with an office in which protection for industrial designs can be obtained for the territories of such an organization are able to join the Hague system. This is the second time that the EC has signed up to a WIPO-administered treaty, having acceded to the Madrid Protocol for the international registration of trademarks in 2004. So far, the EC is the only intergovernmental organization to have acceded, as a bloc, to a WIPO treaty. The EC is the 47th member of the Hague system.

 The Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement enhances the Hague system by making it more compatible with the procedures for the registration of industrial designs in countries such as the United States and Japan where protection of industrial designs is contingent on examination to determine the acceptability of an application. 

Mr. Ernesto Rubio, Assistant Director General of WIPO responsible for questions relating to industrial designs, also underlined the importance of EC accession and referred to a new e-filing system which is due to be launched in January 2008. He said, “WIPO has developed, in co-operation with OHIM, an e-filing system that is expected to greatly facilitate the filing of industrial applications and will be introduced under the Hague system from January 1, 2008, the date on which also EC membership takes effect.”


Designs are a valuable intellectual property resource, often determining the success of one product over a comparable one. For example, it is the distinctive "look" of a watch that will prompt a consumer to choose one model over another. In view of this, companies invest large sums of money and expertise in the development of winning designs. The international protection offered under the Hague system is a means by which creators may protect themselves against unlawful imitation. This WIPO-administered treaty offers users a cost-effective and user-friendly means of obtaining protection for an industrial design in any of the countries that have signed up to the system by filing a single application. Without the system, a designer would have to file separate applications in each of the countries in which protection is sought. This is because, as a general rule, industrial design protection is limited to the territory of the country where protection is sought and granted.

An industrial design is the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of a useful article, in other words, that aspect which makes the article attractive and appealing. It may consist of three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article or two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or colors. These features add to an article's commercial value and increase its marketability. An industrial design is essentially non-functional; it is something primarily of an aesthetic nature, and does not relate to technical features of an article.

Under the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement, contracting parties have a period of six months to examine whether a new international registration can be granted protection in their territory. This period may be extended by a further six months for those contracting parties whose law requires examination of the novelty of the registered design. It also introduced a modified fee system, the possibility of deferring publication of a design for up to 30 months and the ability to file samples of the design rather than photographs or other graphic reproductions. The latter features are of particular interest to the textile and fashion industries. 

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