Chinese Design Protection: The Inexpensive Sword and Shield

By: Michael Gratz

Unique designs are protectable in most industrialized areas of the world including China. Such design protection may be good enough to stop most competitors, if your world-wide strategy is well thought out. For example, a design patent in the US can prevent the importation of “Chinese copies”. Design applications are also often easier to file, more affordable, and easier to get allowed. An additional benefit is that designs are easier for judges and customs officials to review and interpret.

Several clients of our firm have had great success in enforcing their design rights in China, including the consumer products giant, S. C. Johnson & Son of Racine. For consumer products, as in the US, design patents usually move through the Chinese Patent Office in less than twelve months. Typical costs to prepare and file such applications are usually less than $3000. However, the biggest challenge with any design case is the drawings. The drawings must show the unique features of the design. In addition to consumer products, design patents may also be valuable protection for jewelry, automobile parts, and furniture designs.

With regard to Chinese design application filings, our experiences with other clients there have also been very positive. Because design protection is “all about the drawings,” there are usually also cost savings because no significant translations are needed as in utility patent applications. Further, in China, design cases are subject to less rigorous examination and, therefore, they move through the Chinese examination office much more quickly than the typical utility patent application. This generally leads to significant “prosecution” cost savings as well as quicker enforcement opportunities.

Design protection has many benefits, but it is not appropriate in all cases; specifically if the valuable features of a particular product are not driven by the product’s appearance, but rather by its function. If you are interested in pursuing design protection in the US, or in China, please contact Boyle Fredrickson for more information.

Read more about patent protection in China.


About Boyle Fredrickson

Established in 1999, Boyle Fredrickson has grown to become Wisconsin’s largest intellectual property law firm. You’ve got ideas, we protect them.

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