In a major change for the registration of designs in India, articles will now be classified in accordance with the Locarno system, further to India's formal accession to the international treaty in mid-2019. Applicants will benefit hugely from this, as they will now have access to a single classification system in India and other countries that are parties to the treaty.

The new classification system has been proposed in the draft amendments to the Design Rules (available at See), which provide that articles will now be classified as per the current edition of "International Classification for Industrial Designs (Locarno Classification)". This change is in compliance with India's accession to the Locarno Agreement in June 2019.

Besides aligning the Indian design classification system to an international norm, this change has other advantages too. A single classification system facilitates design searches (which are needed for deciding novelty), and also obviates substantial reclassification work when applications for a design are filed in multiple jurisdictions.

India's present design classification is by no means original, and is in fact, mapped to an older version (the 10th edition) of the Locarno classification system, which was incorporated through the Design (Amendment) Rules, 2008, even when India was not a signatory to Locarno Agreement. The present Indian classification has 31 classes, aligned to the 31 Locarno classes, and a miscellaneous class 99.

The latest edition of Locarno classification contains 32 classes and 237 subclasses, with explanatory notes. The proposed amendment will, therefore, introduce a new Class 32 in India: Graphic symbols and logos, surface patterns, ornamentation (detailed classification available at See). The class includes designs of graphic symbols, logos, arrangement of the interior of a room, train interior, boat interior, shop interior, logos etc.

After its incorporation, Class 32 is likely to pose interesting questions for the Indian Designs Office. Merely because a corresponding class exists in the classification system does not guarantee that a design application in that class will be registered. Ordinarily, the design should also satisfy the definitions of 'article' under Section 2(a) and 'design' under Section 2(d) of the Designs Act, 2000.

As per Section 2 (a), "article" means any article of manufacture and any substance, artificial, or partly artificial and partly natural; and includes any part of an article capable of being made and sold separately. Section 2(d) provides at least the following conditions, amongst other things, should be satisfied for the "design" to be registrable:

  • Design means only the features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornament or composition of lines or colors; and
  • Design has to be applied to an article.

As things stand in India today, graphical user interfaces ("GUIs") and icons, which were a part of 10th edition of Locarno Classification and introduced in "Class 14-04: Screen Display and Icons" in the 2008 amendment, are ineligible subject matter for design registration. The Designs Office has taken a view that GUIs and icons do not meet the requirements of Section 2(a) and 2(d) of the Designs Act, 2000.

The key reason for refusal is that GUIs and icons do not have an independent and permanent existence, and appear only when a mobile or computer device is switched on. The design registration of GUIs and icons has been discussed in detail previously (See). We will be tracking this category of designs carefully in the months to come, after the proposed amendments are accepted.

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