A design patent is a form of the legal protection of the unique visual qualities of a manufactured item. A design patent protects the ornamental appearance of an invention, i.e., how a product looks and not how it works. Design patents play a crucial part in the China intellectual property (IP) strategies of enterprises. Foreign businesses with the manufacturing interest in China can enhance their intellectual property rights over an original design by applying for patent protection. According to China’s Patent Law, a design is defined as “the shape, pattern, or the combination thereof, or the combination of the colour with shape and pattern, which are rich in an aesthetic appeal and are fit for industrial application.”
To be eligible for patent protection, a design must:
- Be industrial, thus, a painting or sculpture is not eligible for design patent protection because it is not separable from a useful object.
- Not be identical to any other design that was filed with the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) before the filing date but is published by SIPO after the filing date.
The design patent application process in China
The design patent application in China is a fast, low cost way to obtain protection. The design patent application does not require substantive examination, but rather faces only an examination as to formalities in which applicant information, completeness of the application, and acceptability of the drawings are considered.
Filing requirements of design application in China
For obtainment of a date of filing, an industrial design application in China shall contain:
- Written request
- Drawings or pictures of the design
- Brief description of the design
A copy of a signed POA should be filed within 2 months from the filing of an industrial design application in China. Legalization or notarization is not required. Pursuant to related provisions of the Patent Law of China, figures of a design patent application shall be drawn in conformity with the national standards regarding technical drawings and mechanical drawings.
The duration of design patent validity in China
A Chinese design patent provides exclusive use of the aesthetic features of a product for a period of 10 years; that is, protection of the way a product looks as opposed to how it functions.
In addition to invention patents, design patents and utility models can be useful in your intellectual property strategy. These rights are granted following a formalities examination.