Hasegawa Patent Law Firm

Plan to renew the MPEP of Japanese Design Patent in 2015

January 31, 2014

  Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (hereinafter, "METI"), and Japan Patent Office (hereinafter, "JPO") announced that they would renew Manual of Patent Examination Procedure ("MPEP") of Japanese design patent during 2014 and thereby start to enhance the protection of new designs from 2015 at latest. Specifically, they plan to expand the design patent eligibility of GUI image displayed on devices like portable electronic devices. 

  In 2006, they renewed Japanese design patent law to include a static GUI image on a display to eligible designs. However, they excluded the GUI image itself, animations like game images and website images separated from tangible object. 

  Apple, Inc., which continues disputing with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., one of Korean largest companies in the field of smartphone these days has a lot of design patents over the world. The design patents registered in the U.S. and Europe include not only ones about the outer shape of the smartphone but also ones about the GUI images including icon images. On the other hand, the Japanese design patents owned by Apple, Inc. don't include ones about the icon images, because the icon images are ineligible according to the present Japanese design patent law.  

  In near future, Japan will become a member of Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs and thereby further enhance the international competitiveness of Japanese design. That's why METI and JPO decided to expand the design patent eligibility of GUI image and harmonize with laws and practices of the U.S. and EU states.