Registered design protection is an effective way of protecting a product's market share from similar looking competing products and obtaining registered designs can significantly improve a company's position in case a dispute arises. Each country/region has their own laws regarding design protection and their own systems for registering designs. Therefore, it is necessary to obtain separate design rights for each country of interest (e.g., by filing separate national design applications in each country). As a result, obtaining registered designs in many different countries can be costly. Moreover, maintaining and keeping track of individual designs in multiple countries can be complicated.

The Hague system provides a way for applicants to apply for a registered design centrally (at the World Intellectual Property Organization) and extend the geographic scope of the application to multiple different countries (though local professional advice may still be needed). Filing a single design application through the Hague system can be less expensive and less complicated than filing individual designs in each country of interest. Moreover, the Hague system provides a convenient way to manage and renew the registered design centrally. Therefore, many of our clients are choosing to file registered design applications via the Hague system, rather than through separate individual national applications.

It is not possible to extend a Hague design to every country in the world (the list of the 94 countries currently accessible via the Hague system is found here). Moreover, in order to file a Hague application, an applicant must be based in one of the countries that are signed up to the Hague system. As previously reported, China's accession to the Hague system earlier this year (on 5 May 2022) resulted in 9 out of the world's top 10 economies being covered by the Hague system. Since then, the largest economy missing from the Hague design system has been Brazil. Now, Brazil is one step closer to joining with the recent announcement that the House of Representatives of Brazil has approved a draft decree for Brazil's accession to the Hague Agreement. This matter will now be analysed by the Brazilian Senate. Should this be enacted, the Hague system will become even more attractive to applicants by extending the potential scope of Hague applications to include Brazil and making Hague design applications available to applicants based in Brazil. This would constitute a major update to the Hague agreement and the addition of Brazil to the Hague system would likely result in a significant increase in the number of Hague applications being filed.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.