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China joins the dots on designs

Last month saw the introduction of significant, and long awaited revisions to Chinese designs legislation allowing applicants for the first time to represent features of a product which are not within the scope of a design by dotted lines.

Previously in China it was necessary either to convert all dotted lines in a design drawings to solid lines, and thereby limit the scope of the design to features that were never intended to be part of the design, or alternatively to remove the features previously shown in dotted lines altogether.

Whilst removing non limiting features would typically provide a broader design, the added complication in China was that what was left after these features were removed still had to be an entire product.  In other words, it was not previously possible to protect a portion of a product such as the base of a bottle or only the arrangement of operating buttons on a camera in China.

With the introduction of the new legislation on 1 June 2021, it is now possible to protect partial designs in China and dotted lines will be a recognised way of indicating features that are not limiting on the scope of the design. Going forward it should be possible to use the same drawings as filed in a priority application if that case included features shown in dotted lines.

This should lead to more streamlined design prosecution for applicants who regularly file applications in China and the opportunity to secure broader design protection in China than was previously available.

A further change in the legislation increases the term of a design in China from 10 years to 15 years, which provides a further advantage to applicants protecting important new designs in China.

Following the introduction of these important changes, if applicants have recently filed design applications in China and are still within the original priority period, there may be benefits from filing a new Chinese application to take advantage of the changes in relation to differentiating between limiting and non-limiting features in the drawings and also benefit from the extended term available.

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Wendy Crosby

Director, Patents and Head of Designs Group
Aberdeen