International System for Registration of Industrial Designs Set to Expand

Geneva, September 26, 2003
Press Releases PR/2003/360

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, welcomed the accession by Spain to the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, a landmark agreement that will enhance and broaden the geographical scope of the existing system for the international registration of industrial designs. Spain on September 23, 2003, became the 11th country to join the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement, triggering its entry into force on December 23, 2003.

"Entry into force of this important multilateral agreement paves the way for wider use of the Hague system for the international registration of industrial designs by introducing features which will make the system more attractive to those countries which have so far remained outside the system," said Dr. Idris. He expressed confidence that it will help fulfill the tremendous potential of the Hague system by offering an even more flexible, cost-effective and user-friendly means for companies and individuals across the globe to protect their industrial designs.

The Geneva Act will enter into force on December 23, 2003 for the following countries which have, so far, acceded to it: Estonia, Georgia, Iceland, Kyrgystan, Liechtenstein, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine.

The Hague system offers users 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, separate applications would have to be filed 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 new Act introduces a number of important changes to the Hague system for the registration of industrial designs. To date, this has been governed by the Hague Act (1960) and the London Act (1934) concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs. The Geneva Act enhances the existing system by making it more compatible with the registration system 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. The Geneva Act seeks to broaden the geographical scope of international design registrations.

Under the new Act, 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 introduces 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.

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 is that users are able to include up to as many as 100 designs in each international application. In 2002, WIPO received about 4,300 applications containing some 20,700 designs. Each application covered on average 11 countries. This is equivalent to about 47,000 national applications having the effect of protecting a total of some 230,000 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. At present, only 34 States are party to the Hague Agreement.


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 & Public Affairs Section at WIPO: Tel: + 41 22 338 8161 or 338 9547; e-mail: .