7 February 2022Muireann Bolger

China joins major WIPO treaties

China has joined two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties, the  Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs and the Marrakesh Treaty.

WIPO confirmed the development on February 5, and hailed it as an “important development for the global IP system”.

The Hague System offers a solution to international design protection, removing the need to file separate and multiple applications in individual countries or regions.

The Marrakesh Treaty makes the production and international transfer of specially-adapted books for people with blindness or visual impairments easier by establishing a set of limitations and exceptions to traditional copyright law.

WIPO director general, Daren Tang, received China's accession document to the Marrakesh Treaty from vice Minister Zhang Jianchun, of the National Copyright Administration of China, and China’s accession document for the Hague System from Commissioner Shen Changyu of the China National Intellectual Property Administration.

China's accession comes into force on May 5, 2022.

Tang: designers have a ‘big role’

On China's accession to the Hague System, Tang said: “From the earliest ornamental products made by our Stone Age ancestors to the modern day haute couture we see on runways across the globe, designers enrich, excite and enliven us.

“Designers are also playing a bigger role in shaping the look and feel of the products we use every day—from household products and mobile phones to virtual designs. China’s accession to the Hague System means that the design community in China will find it easier to protect and bring their designs out of China, and overseas designers will find it easier to move their designs into one of the world's largest and most dynamic markets.”

Chinese residents filed a total of 795,504 designs in 2020, representing some 55% of the worldwide total.

China’s entry into the Hague System will make it easier and cheaper for these designers to protect and promote their work overseas, according to the statement.

Users file one online international application to register up to 100 designs in more than 90 countries. One international registration provides a user with the equivalent of a bundle of national or regional registrations.

With China's accession, all designers in China will be able to use the International Design System to protect and promote their designs overseas, saving time and money.

Some larger Chinese enterprises with an establishment, such as a manufacturing plant, in countries that are already members, such as Xiaomi,  Lenovo and others, have already been using the Hague System underlining the demand for an easier and faster way to operate internationally.

Foreign designers will have easier access to the Chinese market, using one application and one set of fees to file for protection in 94 countries including China when its accession comes into force in May.

Industrial designs constitute the ornamental aspect of an article. An industrial design may consist of three dimensional features, such as the shape of an article, or two dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or colour.

According to WIPO, graphical user interfaces or objects for the virtual world are becoming more popular forms of designs worldwide.

Design registrations in respect of health and personal safety items have also risen, noted WIPO, showing the relevance of design innovation as part of the worldwide efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

17 million to benefit from Marrakesh treaty

Commenting on China's ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, Tang said: “China has one of the world’s oldest and richest continuing literary and cultural traditions. With China’s entry into the Marrakesh Treaty, people who are blind or have other visual impairments will benefit from having greater access to this rich and continuing tradition

He noted that the blind and visually impaired community in China, which is estimated at over 17 million, will benefit more easily from accessible versions of foreign-produced texts.

The accession also means WIPO's Accessible Books Consortium, which works with non governmental organisations to convert books into formats accessible by the visually impaired, will work with stakeholders to add a strong collection of books in Chinese to its current offering of 730,000 books in 80 languages.

The Marrakesh Treaty came into force in June 2013, and entered into force three years later. It has emerged as WIPO’s fastest growing treaty in terms of membership and now includes 84 contracting parties.

China's accessions came during Tang's trip to China to attend the opening of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, where he joined UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the president of the UN General Assembly and other heads of international organisations at these Olympic ceremonies.

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