Tyrone Berger, “Growing Union: Changing face of the Hague Agreement”
Designs laws are frequently described as the least harmonised of all of the intellectual property regimes, internationally. As a consequence, there remains real flexibility for countries to prescribe national requirements for design protection, in contrast to other regimes. The diversity in national approaches is partly a reflection of divergent philosophies towards design protection, and partly a result of the practical difficulties that exist for countries implementing systems of legal protection. Yet, in globalised markets there has been increasing pressure for harmonisation of intellectual property regimes. Although the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (Hague Agreement) represents an effort to internationalise a sui generis design system, it does not provide for any harmonised standards for the type of protection that Contracting Parties provide to designs. Presently, there are 34 Contracting Parties to the 1960 Hague Act and 50 Contracting Parties to the 1999 Geneva Act. In many instances, countries re-signed in 1999 from either the 1960 Hague Act, or the earlier 1934 London Act. As at 13 January 2016, there are a total of 65 members to the Hague Agreement. Recent accessions include the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea; while the United Kingdom (UK) has declared that it will accede in late 2016 after a public consultation in 2015. This paper surveys the Hague Yearly Review– an empirical snapshot produced by WIPO each year – to examine the changing face of the Hague Union, and assess whether the Hague Agreement does more than just facilitate international designs protection.