Highlights from Joint Proposal for Harmonization of GUI Design Protection

March 9, 2022
Marshall Gerstein Insights

The WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications meets in Geneva, Switzerland March 28 to 30, 2022.  On the agenda[1] is an updated proposal by the Delegations of Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States for a Joint Recommendation Concerning Industrial Design Protection for Designs for Graphical User Interfaces (“GUIs”)[2].  Highlights of the Joint Recommendation:

  • “Life moves pretty fast.” – Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Update industrial design protection for GUI’s to keep up with advancements such as autonomous vehicles, holographic projected images, and virtual reality environments.
  • Harmonize - Increase uniformity and consistency in GUI protection across jurisdictions.
  • “If you love somebody set them free” – Sting – GUIs should be free of operational or temporal limitations. GUIs should be afforded industrial design protection without consideration or limitation to the operating status of an underlying device, the amount of time the design is visually available, or how the GUI was installed on a product.  Also, there should be protection offered for GUIs independently of underlying or separately saleable products, and GUI protection should be available in varied screen display environments, without requiring separate design applications to protect the same design in each environment.
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – M.W. Hungerford – The format of representations should be left to the applicant’s discretion.  It is recommended that applicants be permitted to present GUIs for which design protection is sought in the form of photographs, black and white drawings, or color drawings.
  • Make Pierre-Hubert Desvignes (creator of the flip book) and John Barnes Linnett (the first to patent the flip book) proud – Filing procedures should be provided to facilitate effective and accurate design registration for GUIs that possess transitional, sequential, or moving image features, such as including numbered images to clearly convey progression of a sequence of the images, and descriptive text may be required.
  • “The most valuable commodity I know of is information. Wouldn’t you agree?” – Gordon Gekko, Wall Street – There should be the ability to electronically file applications for GUI design protection and granted GUI designs should be available on a publicly accessible database.
  • “All animals are equal.” – G. Orwell, Animal Farm – Examination criteria (both as to form and substance), rights and remedies, what constitutes infringement, and duration of protection, should be the same for GUIs as for other protectable industrial designs.
  • “Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? – The Cranberries – Certified copies of priority documents for GUI design applications should be exchanged via the WIPO Digital Access Service (DAS).
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