On May 13, 2015, the U.S. became a participant in the Hague Agreement on international registration of design patents. U.S. applicants can now file a single design patent application and seek protection in multiple member countries of the Hague Union, similar to the streamlined patent protection afforded by the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) for utility patent applications and that offered by the Madrid Protocol for trademark applications.. Applicants no longer need to file individual design patent applications in each desired (member) foreign country.
For U.S. design patent applications filed on or after May 13, 2015, the term has been extended from 14 to 15 years from the issue date even if the Hague process is not used. International design patent applications under the Hague system will be published generally 6 months after the filing date. This provides applicants with potential provisional rights that can predate the grant date, but only for a single embodiment.
The potential cost savings for a Hague application can be significant, as fees for individual foreign counsel may be bypassed at least for the initial filing. U.S. applicants will have the option to file electronically through the USPTO site. However, the substantive examination of a design patent application will still be subject to the particular rules and rejections of each member country or region. So, for example, requirements concerning the number of views or the formatting of the drawings (e.g., shading) may differ.