IP Newsletter | Winter 2016/17
Minimalist Designs Can Be Protected Through Design Registration
The Korean Intellectual Property Office recently amended the Design Examination Guidelines, effective as of January 1, 2017. The most notable of the amendments is that the creativity threshold for design registrations has been substantially lowered.
Previously, examiners often found it easy to reject design applications without citing any prior art, if the design was composed of well-known shapes or patterns, such as basic 2D and 3D geometric shapes. As a result, minimalist designs (which are designs intentionally stripped of superfluous elements) usually have been held to be unregistrable under the Design Protection Act and therefore not protectable.
However, according to the amended Guidelines, if the product design is composed in a manner that has never been seen before in the relevant field, the design can be deemed as creative regardless of whether it is comprised of basic shapes or patterns. The amended Guidelines also require examiners to cite supporting evidence when refusing a design application due to lack of creativity. Only very common manners of creation or obvious forms of expression in the product field are now exempt from the evidence requirement, such as a generic car design for a car toy. It is expected that registration will be available for substantially more designs going forward as a result of these amendments.
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