UK ratifies Hague Agreement

13 March 2018

The UK has today (13 March 2018) taken the final official step to join the international design filing system known as the Hague System. This ratification will come into force on 13 June 2018, at which point the system can be used by those seeking registered design protection in the UK.

The Hague System is administered by WIPO and can be used by applicants who have a link to a territory or international organisation that has signed up to that system. Protection can only be requested in other territories that are also parties to the system.

At present those based in the UK can make use of this system due to the fact that the EU is a member. However, with Brexit looming large on the horizon the fact that the UK will be a member in its own right is to be warmly welcomed. It is particularly encouraging that efforts have been made to ensure this has happened without significant delay at a time when so many resources are necessarily being dedicated to Brexit.

The Hague system itself has grown in popularity and importance in recent years, with major jurisdictions including the US, Japan and South Korea all having signed up. Much like the Madrid System for trade marks, the Hague System involves a central filing with WIPO. Formalities checks are carried out by WIPO following which the application is sent to the national offices of each designated territory. Each national office then effectively treats it like a national application.

Brexit will of course still bring many challenges in the world of design law, with issues still to be pinned down including whether EU-wide design registrations (including those obtained under the Hague system) will effectively be replicated on the UK national register. There are also serious potential implications in relation to unregistered design rights as the current UK law in this regard differs fairly significantly to the regime under EU law. Indeed, these differences in the unregistered systems will make the registration of designs in the UK more important for many designers and design-led companies, who will now have a chance to try out the international system and work out their protection strategies before Brexit actually happens.