Improved protection of designs in China

August 05, 2021

Changes to Chinese design law will make it easier for non-Chinese companies to enforce their design rights in China.

Design rights relate to the aesthetics of products, user interfaces, graphic symbols, and typefaces, among other things. Designs are protectable internationally via design registration systems, in a similar manner to trade marks and patents. Every country has its own registration system that subtly differs from systems in other countries. For several decades, the registration systems of different countries have been converging with each other. Now, a June 2021 change to Chinese design law will bring China’s design law much closer to the rest of the world.

It is expected that this law change will pave the way to China joining an International registration system (the ‘Hague’ system) that enables a single international application to cover multiple countries, without the need for overseas agents and high fees.

The most notable change is an increase in the term of registration from 10 years to 15 years. The extra five years of protection will come as a welcome change to designers. We would like to see the term extended even further, for example, to 25 years to match the UK and EU.

Another useful change is the recognition of so-called ‘partial designs’, in which the designer can opt to protect a part of a design without having to claim the whole design. For example, it is potentially possible to protect a graphical user interface (GUI) without limiting the protection to the GUI as part of a specific device. This partial design strategy is already available here in the UK, and is used here to great effect to secure a broad scope of protection.

The law changes, together with improvements in intellectual property enforcement, will make it easier for non-Chinese claimants to control counterfeiting and piracy in China.