Under the Geneva Act of the 1925 Hague Agreement concerning the international registration of industrial designs, businesses are able to register their designs in multiple jurisdictions with just a single application. There are 67 contracting parties to the Agreement, spanning the territories of up to 82 countries.
Currently, UK businesses can submit an application as a consequence of the EU's membership of the Hague Union. However, the UK is scheduled to formally exit the EU on 29 March 2019.
The UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) confirmed earlier this month, however, that the UK had now ratified the Agreement in its own right. The ratification will take effect on 13 June this year.
Intellectual property law expert David Woods of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "This is good news for UK businesses – by becoming a party to The Hague Agreement there will be more flexibility for how designs are protected."
"Generally, if possible, it is better not to have to rely on unregistered rights because they are potentially harder to establish the existence of and then enforce. Businesses should at least consider options that are available to register rights. This form of international design rights protection is another option open to them, and with the government's ratification it means it will continue to be an option for designers to protect their rights post-Brexit," he said.
Woods also said that some intellectual property (IP), such as designs, may be capable of being protected by more than one form of IP, for example design rights and copyright.
The IPO said the UK's participation in The Hague system will provide businesses with "greater choice in how they register their designs internationally", encourage businesses from outside of the UK to register their designs in the UK, and help reduce the cost of registering designs for businesses.
Tim Moss CBE, chief executive of the IPO, said: "Design intensive UK business generate in excess of 11% of our GDP with a total investment in intangible assets protected by design rights estimated at more than £14 billion. The UK’s decision to join The Hague system in our national capacity will give businesses a greater choice in how to protect, manage and register their designs internationally, and save them money."
"Our membership of this international system may also encourage non-UK owners of designs to register their rights in the UK for basing manufacturing, distribution or licensing of their intellectual property (IP). These IP assets are important for innovative companies, especially for SMEs. They have a positive impact on job creation and economic growth," he said.