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Looking for the wow factor in designs

“Good morning trademark people,” began Grégoire Bisson, Director of The Hague Registry, at the Madrid System Users’ Meeting yesterday. “There’s nothing wrong with trademarks, but once you’ve worked in designs there is no going back.”

The WIPO official explained his enthusiasm for the world of design law by outlining how important design has become to IP over the past 50 years. “We used to buy watches by looking for the most reliable watch for our budget,” he said. “Trademarks offered some promise of that reliability. Now though, reliability is assumed and what people look for is design. People want products that have the ‘wow’ factor.”

Design registrations have grown at twice the speed of trademark registrations over the past nine years, Bisson said. Most design owners, however, seek protection in their home country. That’s because there is territoriality of rights, making the application process cumbersome and expensive. The good news for design owners is that the Hague System, administered by WIPO, can make the application process more efficient. The bad news is that it has limited geographical scope, compared with the scope of protection offered to trademarks through the Madrid System.

“But stay tuned,” said Bisson. “The Hague System will grow massively.” South Korea is due to join in July, the United States in October, and Japan, China, the 10 Asean countries and Russia could join in 2015. Canada, Mexico and ARIPO are also considering whether to accede to the Hague Agreement.

Expansion of the System, however, could lead to what Bisson described as “complexification.” One solution is for WIPO member states to agree on a draft Design Law Treaty, designed to simplify registration formalities for industrial designs. At WIPO’s Extraordinary General Assembly last week, member states discussed convening a diplomatic conference on the Treaty. Even if that does not mature into domestic legislation for many years, said Bisson, it will act as a best practice model for IP offices around the world.

Yesterday’s Madrid System Users Meeting also featured presentations from representatives of trademark offices in Tunisia, Mexico, India, OAPI and Hong Kong, while WIPO officials provided an update on changes to the system, and how trademark owners can make better use of it. For more details, see page 5.

To find out more about designs, attend today's session IM20 The Shape of Things to Come: Clearing and Protecting High-Tech Product Configurations​ from 11:45 am to 1:00 pm in Convention Hall A.

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