Diplomatic Conference to Focus on Industrial Design Registration System

Geneva, June 7, 1999
Press Releases PR/1999/175

Negotiators from members states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will meet in Geneva from June 16 to July 6, 1999, to adopt a new Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs.

This multilateral agreement offers business and industry a simple and cost-effective way to obtain protection for their industrial designs in any or all of the States which are party to the agreement by making a single international deposit. Without the system, an owner would have to file separate applications in each of the countries in which protection was 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.

The number of international applications for industrial design protection has increased progressively in recent years. One of the main advantages of using the Hague system lies in the fact that users are able to include up to as many as 100 designs in each international application that is made. In 1998, WIPO registered about 4,000 international deposits each covering on average 11 countries. This was equivalent to about 45,000 national applications which had the effect of protecting a total of 19,000 designs. In spite of this positive trend, the system is still under-utilized, particularly compared with the large number of such designs that are created and used globally. Moreover, only 29 States are currently party to the Hague Agreement.

The Diplomatic Conference is being convened in order to enlarge the geographical scope of the Hague system by introducing features which will make the system more acceptable to those countries which have so far remained outside the system. By and large those countries grant protection to industrial designs only after carrying out an examination to check whether the designs in question fulfill the conditions for protection such as that the design be new. At the same time, features sought by existing users of the system will be introduced, such as the possibility of deferring publication of the design for up to 30 months, and of filing samples of the design rather than photographs or other graphic reproductions; these features are of particular interest to the textile industry.

These innovations and an eventual increase in the number of member countries will ensure that the Hague system is an even more attractive option for actual and potential users of the system. Conclusion of the new Act of the Hague Agreement will serve therefore as an additional means to reinforce efforts to promote respect for intellectual property rights and their effective protection throughout the world.


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.

Industrial designs are applied to a wide variety of industrial and handicraft products: from technical and medical instruments to watches and jewelry; from household goods and electrical appliances to vehicles and architectural structures; from textile designs to leisure goods.

The advantages of industrial design protection are:

  • the owner is able to prevent unauthorized copying or imitation of his or her design by third parties. In addition, as industrial designs add to the commercial value of a product and facilitate its marketing and commercialization, their protection helps ensure that a fair return on investment is obtained.
  • protection of industrial designs encourages fair competition and honest trade practices. It leads to the production of more aesthetically attractive and diversified products, thereby broadening consumer choice.
  • industrial design protection acts as a spur to a country's economic development by contributing to the expansion of commercial activities and by enhancing the export potential of national products.
  • as industrial designs can be relatively simple and inexpensive to develop and to protect, they are reasonably accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises, even to individual artists and craftsmen, in both industrialized and developing countries.

The system of international registration of industrial designs under the Hague Agreement enables designers to obtain protection quickly and inexpensively in several countries through a single procedure, thus enabling them to enjoy the above advantages in overseas markets with a minimum of time and expenditure.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO:

Tel: (+41 22) 338 81 61; (+41 22) 338 95 47
Fax: (+41 22) 338 88 10
E-mail: publicinf@wipo.int