On May 5, the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (Hague Agreement) entered into force in China.
On the effective day, a total of 49 Chinese enterprises submitted 108 international applications for design patents. The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) received 58 international applications for design patents. As of 5:30 PM Geneva Time, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) had received 50 international applications for design patents directly from Chinese applicants. Lenovo (Beijing) Co., Ltd., GEMT Technology (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. and Beijing Xiaomi Mobile Software Co., Ltd. pace all applicants via the CNIPA route while WIPO's data suggests Shenzhen Smoore Technology, Dreame Innovation Technology and Shenzhen TCL Digital Technology are the most prolific Chinese filers.
China is shifting quickly from "Made in China" to "Created in China". Chinese enterprises going global are paying closer attention to protect their product designs with IP, which in turn generates more demand for design protection. WIPO's statistics indicates around 1.4 million design applications were filed worldwide in 2020 with the CNIPA being the busiest destination hauling in half of the total. In 2021, global innovators submitted over 67 million international applications for design patents in the Hague system, and applications from China ranked among the top 10.
In response to the constantly evolving need of innovators, CNIPA had been tweaking its practice dynamically while closely following the developments of the Hague system and moving the process of accession. Under the principle of "conforming to the Hague Agreement, make the system easy to use for users, refraining from drastic practice changes and hooking up with international procedures", CNIPA made preparations regarding examination standards, application and examination procedures, office actions and system requirements, ironed out accession details in multiple rounds of negotiations with the International Bureau of WIPO, aiming to offer potent support for the submission and examination of international applications for design patents.
On the effective day, Midea Small Domestic Appliances (SDA) submitted three international design applications to the CNIPA. "Midea could only use the Hague system through its oversea R&D centers," said She Yan, IPR head at Midea SDA. "We can do it directly via the CNIPA, significantly contracting our filing formalities."
"The Hague Agreement gives us Chinese innovators a simple and efficient route for international design registration and protection. It makes it easier for centralized management of design inventory and patent assets," said Guo Zhenpeng, Midea's chief IP counsel. "In the meantime, it sharply cut our cost in oversea patent planning, easing the burden of us Chinese innovators when venturing out."
"China's accession to the Hague Agreement meets the demand of Chinese innovators for international development, and motivates them to join international competition through persistent R&D and innovations," said Ren Shengce, Director of the Innovation and Competition Research Center, Shanghai International College of Intellectual Property, Tongji University. He believed that the Hague Agreement would attract more advanced technologies and brilliant ideas to China from abroad, expedite the development of Chinese innovators in fields such as international mass consumer goods and creative design, and make Chinese ideas, Chinese design and China-made products glow with radiance in the world.
According to Xiong Wencong, an Associate Professor at the Law School, Minzu University of China, China's accession to the Hague Agreement is an obvious reflection of its deep engagement in global IP governance under the WIPO framework. The Agreement in effect means China's full integration into the major international systems in terms of patents, trademarks, copyrights and designs, which meets China's demand for expanding international IP cooperation and enhancing international IP competitiveness, and pronounces China's firm stance to open wider to the outside world, expand international cooperation and uphold multilateralism.