Negotiations Open to Adopt New Act of the Hague Agreement

Geneva, June 16, 1999
Press Releases PR/1999/177

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, urged negotiators on Wednesday to show the necessary political will to adopt a new multilateral agreement that would improve the existing system for obtaining international protection of industrial designs.

Opening the Diplomatic Conference to adopt a new Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, Dr. Idris expressed confidence that "political goodwill will prevail" so that a consensus can be reached.

The Director General's remarks were echoed by the President of the Conference, Ambassador Philippe Petit, who is also the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in Geneva. Ambassador Petit expressed hope that the deliberations would proceed in a spirit of consensus.

Negotiators from WIPO's member states, meeting from June 16 to July 6, 1999, will consider the adoption of a new Act of this multilateral agreement that offers business and industry a simple and cost-effective way to obtain protection for their industrial designs in any or all of the state parties 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 in which protection is sought and granted.

Dr. Idris pointed out that in its current form, the Hague Agreement is under-utilized, despite its great potential in simplifying the procedure to obtain protection for an industrial design in several countries. In 1998, just under 4,000 new international deposits were recorded in the International Register. While this figure is 40% higher than that recorded for 1988, Dr. Idris pointed out that it is "tiny" compared with the international registrations of trademarks under the Madrid System, and the international patent applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) - both administered by WIPO - in the same year.

Dr. Idris said that the aim of the Diplomatic Conference "is to come up with ways of improving the system of international protection of industrial designs in order to better serve the needs of the creators and owners of designs."

The Director General noted that the Diplomatic Conference also seeks to enlarge the geographical scope of the Hague system by introducing features that will make it more acceptable to 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 specific conditions such as novelty of design.

The new Act would also introduce a number of new features sought by existing users of the system. These would include the possibility of deferring publication of the design for up to 30 months, and the ability to file samples, rather than photographs or other graphic reproductions, of the design. 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 practical and cost-effective option for actual and potential users. "Such an expansion in the membership of the system would, of course, also increase its attractiveness for the users," Dr. Idris said. He underlined that an improved system for the registration of industrial designs is important not only for large corporations in industrialized countries, but also for small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular in developing countries.


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.

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.

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