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PARTIAL AMENDMENT OF THE JAPANESE DESIGN LAW

『YUASA and HARA INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY NEWS』vol.21
Yuasa and Hara, published in 2007
TAKATA, Yuichiro

Partial Amendment of The Japanese Design Law

1.Introduction
As it is increasingly recognized that good designs highly enrich the value of the product, protection of invented designs is becoming more and more important. In such circumstances, imitation of designs has also been increasing, and thus corporate efforts toward and investment in design invention are in many cases not paying off to the extent that they should, since the fruits of these efforts are Increasingly harvested by imitators who have invested nothing in design invention.

To solve these problems, Japan’s design law has been amended to strengthen protection of design rights and to make it easier to obtain them.

2.Duration of Right (Article 21 (1) (2))
The amended law extends the duration of a design right from 15 years to 20 years from the date of registration. The duration of the right of a related design is also extended from 15 years to 20 years, counted from the date of registration of the principal design. (The new law will be in force for applications filed on or after April 1, 2007.)

3.Protection of Screen Design (Article 2 (2))
To protect screen designs by means of design rights, it is necessary to file partial design applications. Under the current law, it has been required that the screen design be of an essential element of the product such as a display of an LCD watch or the initial screen of a mobile phone. Screen designs which are not of an initial screen or those of an instrument separated from the main unit have not been registered.

The new law allows screen designs other than the above to be protected as partial designs on condition that (1) the design is of an image on the display screen through which the product can be operated and (2) such operation is performed to permit the function of the product to be demonstrated. For example, a screen design through which a timer recording with a DVD player/recorder can be operated or a screen design of a mobile phone through which a desired phone number can be selected will be registrable. (The new law will be in force for applications filed on or after April 1, 2007.)

4.Related Design (Article 10. (1))
In order for a design to be registered as a related design, the current law requires the design application to meet all the following requirements: (1) the applicant is the same as that of the principal design application; (2) the design is similar to the principal design; and (3) the filing date is the same as that of the principal design application. The requirement (3) is to be changed to allow the applicant to file a related design application anytime between the date of the principal design application and the day before publication of the principal design registration.
(The new law will be in force for the applications of related designs filed on or after April 1, 2007.)

5.Secret Design (Article 14. (2))
An applicant for a design registration may demand that the design be kept secret for up to three (3) years from the registration date. Under the current law, it has been necessary to file the request simultaneously with filing of the application. The new law permits the applicant to file the request simultaneously either with filing of the application or with payment of the registration fee.
(The new law will be in force for applications filed on or after April 1, 2007.)

6.Article 3-2.
This article stipulates that registration of a design included in (i.e. part of) a design of an earlier application shall not be admitted. This has been applied even when the later application is filed by the same applicant as that of the earlier application.

Under the new law, this provision will not apply where the applicant of the later application is the same as that of the earlier application.
(The new law will be in force for later applications filed on or after April 1, 2007.)

7.Exceptions to Lack of Novelty of Design (Article 4. (3))
An exceptional remedy for a design that has become public before application is allowed under certain conditions stated in Article 4 of the Design Law. The term for submitting a document proving that the above remedy may be provided to the applied design is changed to within 30 days from the filing date. Under the previous law the term was 14 days from the filing date.
(The new law has been in force since September 1, 2006.)

8.Judgment of Similarity (Article 24. (2))
Criteria for judging the similarity of two designs have not been clear in the current Design Law. The new law states that similarity will be judged based on the aesthetic appeal given rise to through consumers’ visual perception.
(The new law will be in force from April 1, 2007.)

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Authors

Trademark & Design DivisionAssociates Patent Attorneys

TAKATA, Yuichiro

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