Christian Archambeau, vice-president at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), gave the keynote speech. He noted an increasing acceptance of the importance of registered Community designs since they became available in 2003. OHIM receives 95,000 design applications a year, with 10,000 applications coming through the Hague System. “Even though the international route is not as fast, it has become increasingly popular,” noted Archambeau.
He added: “But for design rights to reach their full potential, greater efforts need to be made to reach international agreements on terms and definitions.” He said further work is also required to create interfaces with effective search facilities. There have been particular challenges around image searches. “We will be working proactively with all our partners to reach this goal,” he said.
Archambeau was followed by Grégoire Bisson (pictured), director at The Hague Registry. He referenced a WIPO report that found that trade mark and patent applications increased almost 50% between 2004 and 2012 but international design applications were up 110%.
He said the Hague System is a “one-stop shop” but is a “fairly Euro-centric system at present”. Until South Korea’s ascension to the Hague System in July, there was little action from Asia. “All of this is about to change,” said Bisson. “Stay tuned – it is going to become a big system very soon.”
This is because the United States, Japan, China, Mexico and Canada all have efforts underway to join. “This is going to transform the system entirely,” said Bisson. “Not only geographically speaking but also in the way it operates. Why? Because most of these forthcoming jurisdictions – and this is definitely true of Japan, China and United States – have a novelty examination system under their design law. So it means applicants are going to need to comply with more requirements. They will need to provide more information in their Hague application.”
“Those of you who currently use the system will have noticed we launched last year a new e-filing interface. It contains embedded intelligence, so in the future as these countries join and we require more and more information from you, the e-filing interface will ask you for that information,” said Bisson.
He said with all this change going on, “we need to let things stabilise a little bit as more countries join so that we can all see how aligned practices are between the various offices”. That will also make the system more complex, he said: “Applicants in future may need to be more savvy when making a Hague application. The old days of just going tick, tick, tick, I want all of these countries is probably gone. And that’s not a bad thing.”