While the vast majority of patent applications filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are for utility patents, design patents are also an important form of intellectual property protection available to inventors. Design patents are used to protect the ornamental appearance of an article, such as its shape or the surface ornamentation applied to it, or both.
On May 13, 2015, the provisions of Title I of the Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012 implementing the Hague Agreement took effect in the United States. Under the Hague Agreement, an applicant having a U.S. nationality or having a domicile, a real and effective industrial or commercial establishment, or a habitual residence in the United States can file a single international design application in a single language through the USPTO or with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to obtain protection for up to 100 designs in the contracting parties to the Hague Agreement. Prior to May 13, U.S. applicants generally had to file a separate application in each jurisdiction they wished to protect their designs.
In addition to the new option for filing an international design application under the Hague Agreement, U.S. design patents resulting from both regular design applications and international design applications filed on or after May 13, 2015, will have a patent term of 15 years from issuance.
Foreign applicants filing international design applications on or after May 13, 2015 can also designate the United States in their international design applications in order to pursue design patent protection in the United States.”
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