Japan to consider expanding design protection

Japan may expand design protection beyond definition of ‘design’ in the design law.

As previously reported, Japan has been discussing ‘design’ to strengthen the Japanese companies’ competitiveness since July 2017, and finally published the report on May 23 2018. From IP perspective, the report suggests amendment of the design law to address increasingly diverse ways of design under development of technologies. Specifically, the government will consider the expansion of the scope of protection of design to the following designs.

  • Projection design that is design of image projected on a wall, the human body or the like
  • Spatial design such as interior and exterior design of buildings or stores

The Japanese design law provides definition of ‘design’, and it is associated with an ‘article’. Regarding the projection design, the current definition of ‘design’ does not include design which is displayed elsewhere than a device (See Article 2 (2)). Also, real estate including buildings is not interpreted as an article in Japan. Therefore, the change of definition of ‘design’ is required to protect such projection design and spatial design.

Article 2

(1) “Design” in this Act shall mean the shape, patterns or colors, or any combination thereof, of an article (including a part of an article, the same shall apply hereinafter except in Article 8), which creates an aesthetic impression through the eye.

(2) The shape, patterns or colors, or any combination thereof, of a part of an article as used in the preceding paragraph shall include those in a graphic image on a screen that is provided for use in the operation of the article (limited to the operations carried out in order to enable the article to perform its functions) and is displayed on the article itself or another article that is used with the article in an integrated manner.

In addition, the report suggests to amend the design law to improve protection of a series of designs for a product, considering brand function of design. The right picture shows a series of Sony’s digital cameras which was used as an example for discussion. The current design law provide the Related Design system to allow the respective registration of similar designs, but the design applications for the related design must be filed by the publication date of design bulletin for the original design (Principal Design). The government will consider relaxation of the requirement.

The following items are also likely to be considered for the amendment of the design law.

  • Extension of duration of design right
  • A single design application filing for more than one designs