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2021.04.05 Design

Introduction to Examples of Graphic Image Design Registrations after Revision of the Design Act in 2020

1. Introduction

Under the Design Act of Japan, the scope of protection of graphic image designs was limited to those recorded or displayed on articles.
Under the revised Design Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2020, graphic images themselves are considered to be in the scope of protection even if they are not recorded or displayed on articles, provided that they are related to the “functions” of, for example, equipment.
This article first explains the outline of “graphic images” (including “graphic images used for operation” and “graphic images for displaying” which will be described below) to which the scope of protection has been newly expanded, and then introduces examples of “graphic image” designs that have been registered in Japan.
 
 
 

2. Changes in the Scope of Protection of Graphic Image Designs before (until 2020.3.31) and after (from 2020.4.1) the Revision

(“○”…eligible for protection (registrable), “×”…ineligible for protection (unregistrable))
*Graphic images or videos in which the content of the graphic images or videos themselves are the essential parts of expression.
 
 
 

3. How to Have Graphic Images Themselves Protected

According to the revised Design Act, graphic image designs themselves can be protected under the Design Act if it is described in application documents that the graphic images relate to the functions of the equipment.
The Design Act stipulates A. graphic images used for operation, and B. graphic images used for displaying as the categories of graphic images related to functions of equipment. The specific definitions of graphic images in these categories are as follows.
 
A. Graphic images used for operation: graphic images provided for operation of equipment.
Graphic images in this category are those that provide instructions to target equipment so that the equipment works in accordance with their functions. Unless there are special circumstances, these graphic images include, for example, graphic objects that are used for operating some equipment and are displayed such that they can be selected or specified.
 
B. Graphic images used for displaying: graphic images displayed as a result of equipment performing their functions.
Graphic images in this category are those related to functions of some equipment, and include views related to some functions of the equipment.
 
In the above, we have used the expression “graphic images related to functions of equipment”. This does not mean that it is always required to identify specific equipment in design application documents as far as we see from the examples of graphic images which have been registered. It depends on the nature of the graphic image of the application, but if the graphic image can be recognized by the examiner as a graphic image for operating some equipment or as a graphic image displayed as a result of operation of some equipment from the description in the application document, such a graphic image is determined to be subject to protection.
Graphic images that your company wishes to protect can be included in the scope of protection under the revised Japanese Design Act by devising the way to describe them in application documents. The way to describe them requires appropriate skills based on expertise. Allow us to take care of it. We have a lot of experience in filing design applications.
 
 
 

4. Registration Examples of Graphic Image Designs that are Included in the Scope of Protection under the Revised Design Act

(A) Examples of graphic images used for operation

As shown in i) and ii) below, graphic images of icons and menu screens which enable operation of equipment, such as home electric appliances and information devices, by clicking or swiping are registered as “graphic images used for operation”.
 
i) Graphic images of icons displayed on PC monitors etc.
Graphic images of icons displayed on PC monitors etc
ii) Graphic images for operating equipment, such as home electric appliances, via smartphones etc.
Graphic images for operating equipment, such as home electric appliances, via smartphones etc
 
 
 

(B) Examples of graphic images used for displaying

Graphic images that appear on screens as a result of entering information on computers or other equipment are registered as long as they fall under the category of “graphic images used for displaying” described above.
Moreover, graphic images that are shown using video equipment are protected and registered as long as they fall under the category of “graphic images used for displaying” described above, regardless of where they are displayed (on the ground, walls, etc.) other than monitors of equipment.
The details are as shown in i) and ii) below.
 
i) Graphic images projected on locations other than displays of equipment
Graphic images that are shown on the ground or walls are registered. In the case where graphic images sequentially change, such “changing graphic images” are included in a single application and registered.
 
Design Registration No. 1676765
Graphic images for indicating traveling directions
Design Registration No. 1676765
Design Registration No. 1676765
 
Design Registration No. 1678245
Graphic images for showing information
These graphic images are displayed on the walls of public places to promote handwashing. Changing graphic images are also registered by way of attaching multiple graphic images to an application document as shown below.
Design Registration No. 1678245
Design Registration No. 1678245
 
ii) Many applications have been filed and registered for the graphic images themselves that appear to display information on equipment such as PCs and smartphones.
Shown below are partial designs of some portions of graphic images.
As long as the registration requirements such as novelty and creative difficulty are met, it is possible to acquire rights based merely on elements, such as symbols and lines, and their arrangement. Under the current circumstances, more versatile graphic image designs can be protected.
 
Design Registration No. 1678351
Graphic images for showing information
Design Registration No. 1678351
 
Design Registration No. 1678350
Graphic images for showing information
The color of the arrow on the upper left side changes when the image on the screen changes.
Design Registration No. 1678350
Design Registration No. 1678350
 
 

Edited by Rieko Yoshimoto

名古屋国際特許業務法人

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