China’s accession to the Geneva Act (1999) of the Hague Agreement took effect on May 5. It means that non-Chinese design applicants can now designate this newest member of the Hague System in their international design applications and Chinese companies and designers can also now use the Hague System to seek design protection in any of its contracting parties.
58 design applications were filed with the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) and 50 design applications were filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on the System’s very first effective date, according to the information published by the CNIPA. 49 Chinese companies from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang, the country’s most developed provinces and municipalities, are the entities filing the total sum of 108 applications. Article 19 Paragraph 2 of the fourth amendments to the Patent Law of the People’s Republic of China, which came into effect on June 1, 2021, provides that the CNIPA and the WIPO are both administrative bodies to receive and process the Chinese international design applications under the Hague System.
Lenovo (Beijing) Ltd., Shi’er Medical Technology (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. (世耳医疗科技（上海）有限公司), and Beijing Xiaomi Mobile Software Co., Ltd. are the biggest applicants before the CNIPA. E-cigarette maker Shenzhen Smoore Technology Ltd. (深圳麦克韦尔科技有限公司), Xiaomi Corp.-backed vacuum cleaner maker Dreame Innovation Technology Co., Ltd. (追觅创新科技有限公司), and TCL Digital Technology (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd. (TCL数码科技（深圳）有限责任公司) are the biggest applicants before the WIPO.
Some other world-renowned Chinese top companies Alibaba, Huawei, JD.com, Midea, BYD Auto are among the applicants, with Chinese companies with global presences, such as New York Stock Exchange-listed electric vehicle (EV) maker NIO and Transsion Holdings, the largest smartphone manufacturer by sales in Africa, joining the bandwagon. The remaining strong domestic players filing applications include short-form video platform Kuaishou, Shanghai M&G Stationery Inc., consumer product company Shanghai Jahwa United Co., Ltd., Huawei spin-off smartphone maker Honor, lighting company Opple, robotic cleaner maker Beijing Roborock Technology Co., Ltd, etc.
Under the Hague System, an international design registration will be valid for an initial period of five years and allow for two renewals for further two five-year terms. In each contracting party to the Geneva Act (1999) of the Hague Agreement, the international registration will be enforced and protected for at least 15 years.
The Hague System, also known as the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs, provides a mechanism for registering an industrial design and securing enforcement and protection for it simultaneously in several countries or regions by means of one single international application, filed in one language, with one set of fees. The System is administered by the WIPO, with its three official filing languages being English, French, and Spanish. One of another six languages, including Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, German, Italian, and Swiss is being considered as an additional filing language since they are spoken by countries among top 10 origins of international applications under the Hague System.
The origins of the Hague System date back to 1925, when the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs was adopted. The Agreement was revised in 1934 (London Act) and again in 1960 (Hague Act). An Additional Act signed in Monaco in 1961, and a Complementary Act signed in Stockholm in 1967 (further amended in 1979) supplemented the Hague Agreement. The latest Act of the Agreement is the Geneva Act (1999). Both the Geneva Act (1999) and the Hague Act (1960) are in force. Operations take place almost entirely under the Geneva Act (1999). Countries can become a contracting party to either of the Acts in force, or both. With China’s accession, the Hague System now covers 94 countries and nine out of ten of the world’s top economic markets.
The CNIPA on April 25 issued its No. 481 notice on Interim Administrative Measures for International Design Applications under the Hague System (《关于加入海牙协定后相关业务处理暂行办法的公告》) to preempt enforcement of the Agreement. The full text is available here.