By: Jimmy Yang, a registered patent attorney at Guangdong Pingo Law Firm, China
A design patent protects a product with aesthetic feeling, including its shape, pattern, color, and combination thereof. China has become a global hub for manufacturing and innovation, making it a popular destination for companies to register their intellectual property, particularly design patents.
Registering a design patent in China can provide businesses with legal protection against unauthorized use or imitation of their product designs. In this article, we will outline the steps and requirements for registering a design patent in China.
1. What can be registered as a design in China?
According to Article 2 of the Patent Law of China, a design patent specifies the whole or partial shape or pattern of a product, or a combination thereof, which is fit for industrial application, and which creates an aesthetic feeling.
In China, a wide range of products can be registered as a design, including industrial products, textiles, and GUI (Graphical user interface), but not including handicrafts that cannot be reproduced, agricultural products, livestock products, natural objects . The design must have novelty, originality, and ornamental value to be eligible for registration. Additionally, the design must not be identical or significantly similar to any prior design or combination of prior designs.
A design patent should meet the following requirements:
- refer to the design of shape, pattern or their combination, or the combination of color, shape and pattern;
- must be a design for the whole or part of the product;
- must be aesthetic;
- must be suitable for industrial applications; and
- must be a new design.
2. Why can you be refused to register a design in China?
There are several reasons why a design may be refused registration in China:
- Lack of Novelty: If the design is not new, it may be refused registration. In China, a design must be novel and not identical to any prior design*. You need to make sure that no other person (including the applicant) has filed the same design with CNIPA prior to the filing date.
- Lack of Distinctiveness: If the design is not distinctive enough, it may be refused registration. In China, a design must possess a clear distinction compared to prior designs or the combination of characteristics of prior designs.
- Conflict with earlier rights: The registered design shall not conflict with any legal rights already obtained by others before the filing date.
*The prior design refers to designs known to the public in China or abroad before the filing date.
3. The process of design registration in China
Before applying for a design patent in China, it is essential to conduct a preliminary search. This step involves searching the database of registered designs to ensure that your design is unique and does not infringe on any existing ones.
Once you have confirmed that your design is unique, you need to prepare the application documents. These documents include a Power of Attorney (POA), drawings or photographs, and descriptions of the design. It is essential to ensure that these documents meet the specific requirements of the CNIPA.
After preparing the application documents, you need to file the application with the CNIPA. It is recommended to do this through a registered design patent agency in China. You will also need to pay the official fee after your application is accepted.
Once your application is submitted, the CNIPA will conduct a preliminary examination of your application. This examination will check the formality of your application to ensure that it meets the necessary requirements for registration.
If your application meets all the requirements, you will be notified to pay the 1st-year annuity fee. After that, the CNIPA will issue a certificate of design registration. It is important to note that you still need to pay annual fees each year or upfront after the grant if you want to maintain your design registration in China.
The overall duration of registration is around 6 months.
Patent application in China (From CNIPA)
4. Documents required for registering a design in China
To register a design in China, the following documents are generally required:
- Power of attorney;
- Application form (including the title of the design; name and address of the applicant and designer);
- Design drawings in CAD or JPG format (front, rear, left, right, top, bottom, stereo);
- A certified copy of prior application or a DAS code that must be submitted to the CNIPA within three months of the Chinese filing date, where priority is claimed.
5. Design invalidation process in China
In China, the design invalidation process refers to the procedure for challenging the validity of a registered design. The process is governed by the Patent Law of China and is administered by the CNIPA. Here are the basic steps:
- Filing an invalidation request: The first step in the design invalidation process is to file an invalidation request with the CNIPA. The request may be filed anytime from the registration date.
- Examination of the request: The CNIPA will examine the request and decide whether to accept it for further review. If the request is accepted, the CNIPA will notify the patent holder and provide an opportunity for them to respond.
- Hearing: The parties will then present evidence and arguments to support their position in front of the CNIPA online or on site (in Beijing).
- Decision: After considering all the evidence and arguments presented, the CNIPA will issue a decision to declare complete or partial invalidity or remain valid of the design. If the design is declared to be invalid, it shall be deemed to be non-existent.
- Appeals: Either party may appeal the CNIPA’s decision to a higher authority, the Beijing Intellectual Property Court.
6. The costs of design registration in China
Official fees of design patent registration in China:
Official Fee (CNY)
1-3th year: annually
4-5th year: annually
6-8th year: annually
9-10th year: annually
11-15th year: annually (only for design)
The design patent registration cost in China via the iPNOTE platform starts from as low as $450, which includes all government fees and document preparation. Find the best design patent attorney in China on iPNOTE.
7. Final thoughts
China is the biggest manufacturing country in the world. To prevent Chinese companies from providing identical or similar designs to your potential consumers, design registration in China is a valuable investment for your global businesses even if China is not your target market. Also read our articles about trademark and patent registration in China.
Do you have further questions about patent registration in China? Contact Guangdong Pingo Law Firm via IPNOTE.
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