WIPO Marks 50,000th Industrial Design Registration under the Hague System

Geneva, February 10, 2000
Press Releases PR/2000/205

One of the world's leading watchmakers was recognized on Thursday by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for its extensive use of a system to protect designs in multiple countries. WIPO Director General, Dr. Kamil Idris, presented Mr. Nicolas G. Hayek, CEO and Chairman of Swatch Group Ltd., with a medal to mark the deposit by his company of the 50,000th industrial design under a treaty administered by WIPO.

"The 50,000th deposit of industrial designs under the 1960 Act of the Hague Agreement is a milestone in the history of international design protection. We are delighted that Mr. Hayek, Chairman of Swatch Group Ltd., the largest user of the system, is able to join us in marking this occasion," said Dr. Idris. "Swatch is a world trend-setter in the area of design and has successfully used the Hague system," he added. "The Swatch experience is an excellent example of the relevance of the Hague system to the private sector. The Hague system saves companies significant amounts of money. This translates into savings and better designed products for consumers, not to mention a more attractive environment," Dr. Idris pointed out.

Mr. Hayek said "Swatch stands for joy of life, positive provocation and creating new wealth for society. This is achieved by intelligently pooling the creativity coming from a vast area of know-how. Creativity needs to be encouraged, protected and implemented."

"The success of Swatch demonstrates the power of innovation and originality, two of the driving forces in the intellectual property field. These are the very forces that WIPO is seeking to unleash, especially in the developing world," Dr. Idris said.

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 Agreement 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.

One of the main advantages of using the Hague system is that users are able to include up to as many as 100 designs in each international application thereby keeping the average cost of protection per design low.

The number of international applications for industrial design protection has increased progressively in recent years. The ten largest users of the Hague system are the Swatch Group, Unilever, Sony, Hermès, Philips Electronics, Moulinex, Siemens, Interior's, Fiat, Braun.

The value of intellectual property rights to a dynamic company such as Swatch is also reflected in its use of the other international registration systems administered by WIPO, including the Madrid system for the international registration of marks. Since 1981, the Swatch Group has registered some 39 marks under the Madrid system, which allows a user to obtain protection in up to 64 countries.


The Agreement

The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs was concluded in 1925. This Agreement has been revised and complemented on a number of occasions since then. The latest revision was adopted at a Diplomatic Conference in June 1999 which resulted in the conclusion of the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement. This new Act introduced features that will make the system more acceptable to countries which have so far remained outside the system.

What is an Industrial Design?

An industrial design is the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of a useful article, in other words, that part 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, visual 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. Such protection can be of benefit to designers in both developing and developed countries.

The Advantages of Industrial Design Protection:

  • 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.

  • Under the Hague system, the average cost per design per country in which protection is sought is 37 Swiss Francs for five years of protection. On average 4.8 designs are included in each international deposit which means that the average cost of obtaining five years of protection under the Hague system is 4.5 Swiss Francs per year.


In 1999, WIPO registered about 4,100 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. Since the Hague Agreement came into force in 1928, over 1,800,000 designs have been deposited.

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