There has been good news from Geneva for designers and businesses that look to protect their industrial designs with China joining the Hague System - The International Design System. It will be possible to designate China from 5 May 2022.
As the "world's factory", this represents an excellent development particularly for businesses that produce innovative designs and manufacture them in China.
With one single application, filed directly with WIPO, a British or European business can file a design application covering the United Kingdom, the European Union and China. These may often be their key territories of interest, although many more can also be covered.
None of these three jurisdictions undertake a substantive examination of design applications. Therefore, design protection can typically be obtained cost-effectively.
It is also possible to record designs protected in China with the Chinese Customs authorities. Chinese Customs can inspect goods not just being imported into China, but also being exported from China and so it can be an inexpensive way for rights to be enforced.
A designation of China in a Hague application does not extend to China's Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Separate applications are required with Hong Kong's legal framework for designs is not dissimilar to the UK's.
On the other hand, China accounts for over 50% of all design applications filed worldwide so this will be a useful development for Chinese businesses to protect their designs overseas. There have been incentives provided to Chinese businesses to register their IP that does mean it's often not enforced. However, should it be enforced, even just to file takedowns on online marketplaces that can be disruptive to business, then we can expect an increase in invalidity applications against such designs.
We strongly suggest potential users of the Hague system or any business looking to invalidate an already registered design seeks out professional advice.