Do I have to seek design protection in each different country where I sell my products?
Businesses seeking to expand their markets to other countries have often sought foreign patent protection. That process will now be much simpler. The United States is joining the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs. This means that rather than filing for design protection in individual countries, applicants can file one international design application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. From that single application, protection can be obtained from all countries that are members of the Hague Agreement.
The terms of the Hague Agreement are scheduled to go into effect in the United States in May 2015. At that time, newly-filed design patents will have a term of 15 years instead of 14 years. Another feature of the new international application is that it can contain up to 100 designs, unlike the current U.S. design patents that can only contain a single claim. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has not yet published its final rules on how it will handle the new international applications.
Generally, design patents protect the way a product looks; they relate to the shape or configuration of a product, or to the surface ornamentation applied to a product, or to a combination of those. To be patentable, a design has to be original. Since design has to do with visual appearance, it is distinct from how a product works, which might be the subject of a utility patent. Sometimes, products are eligible for both kinds of patents.
The Kumar Law Firm PLLC in Austin, Texas is uniquely qualified to help your business leverage its intellectual property assets. Sanjeev Kumar’s business experience enhances his legal services. Contact him today at (512)960-3808 for a consultation about forming your business strategies.