China presses ahead with welcome changes to its design law
With effect from 01 June 2021, changes to Chinese design law will mean that Chinese design patents will last longer, and be able to protect a wider range of subject matter.
Starting with the term of protection, the maximum term of protection for a Chinese design patent will be increased from the current ten years from its filing date, up to fifteen years from this filing date. Whilst beneficial in its own right, this change will no doubt also support any proposed future accession of China to the international Hague design registration system, which has been alluded to for some time, and which if effected would be fantastic news.
Term of protection aside, a further welcome change in the law is in respect of broadening the subject matter which can be covered under a Chinese design patent. Specifically, under the new law, "partial designs" will be allowed to be protected. In this way, under the new design law, it will be possible to protect parts of products, noting before design protection in China was more limited to protecting the appearance of products as a whole. As a result of this change, we expect this to have some interesting practical effects, not least in terms of potentially broadening the possible protection for GUIs in China using a design patent, noting before such design patents were more limited to protection of a GUI as part of the shape of a particular physical product (for example, a computer or mobile phone).
In all, the above changes represent an aligning of Chinese design law with design law from other territories around the world, and so will no doubt be warmly welcomed by all users of the Chinese design patent system.