In an important step for design right owners, the United Kingdom has completed its ratification of the 'Hague Agreement' concerning the registration of industrial designs.
The UK is already a participant in the Hague system, in its capacity as a Member State of the European Union. The country's ratification on 13 March 2018 assists the UK in streamlining its legal structure, as part of the ongoing development of the UK's designs protection regime.
From 13 June 2018, it will be possible to obtain a UK registered design right (i.e. of national scope) directly via the Hague system, as well as by seeking registration for the EU as a whole. This means that, irrespective of whether the UK remains a participant in the EU's unitary system for registered design protection following Brexit, it will still be possible to gain protection covering the UK via the Hague system.
The most recent country to complete ratification of the Hague Agreement was Russia, in November 2017, with the system coming into force on 28 February 2018. For commentary following Russia's 2017's national legislative steps please read our article here. Canada is understood to be progressing legislative steps necessary for ratification, with the latest estimate being that Canada will ratify later this year.
The Hague system is rapidly approaching critical mass; the US and Japan are now part of the system, and China is in the process of signing up. The Hague system is a cost-effective and efficient way to register designs - a single application allows you to register up to 100 designs in 68 countries and intergovernmental organisations, doing away with the need to file applications in each individual country or region.
This system, combined with the ultra-low design registration fees in the UK (averaging £2.50 per design if you file several at the same time) could be the ideal combination for designers seeking maximum protection. If you file in the UK, you can then claim priority from that application, giving you six months to decide whether to file a Hague filing directly with WIPO, and as more and more countries join the system, the usefulness and value of the system should increase
For more information on the Hague Agreement system, please see WIPO's informative materials.