On March 11, 2016, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) announced the revised Chapter IV (“Design Including a Graphic Image on a Screen”) in Part VII of the Examination Guidelines for Design. New “74.4.3: Creative difficulty” in Chapter IV is applicable to applications for design registration examined on or after April 1, 2016, whereas the rest of Chapter IV (excluding “74.4.3: Creative difficulty”) is applicable to those filed on or after April 1, 2016.

The Design System Subcommittee under the Intellectual Property Policy Committee of the Industrial Structure Council dedicated more than four years to review the Examination Guidelines in view of the increasing prevalence of mobile devices and the growing necessity to protect creative images such as graphical user interfaces (GUI) incorporated into information appliances. The Subcommittee’s work began with the publishing of a report in January 2014 and the seeking of public opinion on the revision, and resulted in the approving of the revision and its introduction into the new Guidelines now being used in examinations.

While the Examination Guidelines were under review, a search system employing image matching technology was also under development to facilitate searches for registered designs including images. The search system, named “Graphic Image Park”, has been in service since October 1, 2015.

The JPO held seminars on the revised Examination Guidelines for Designs across the country from January to March 2016. A document of the lecture, which is available to the public on the JPO’s website, provides the key points of the revision:

  • More designs including graphic images are subject to registration
    – Upon a graphic image being recorded in an article (regardless of the timing of the recording), the graphic image is acknowledged as constituting an integral part of the article so as to be subject to design registration (ex. a graphic image representing the additional functions added to a computer by installing software and used for operating these functions).
  • Clearer standards for determining creative difficulty of designs including graphic images
    – Specific reasoning to determine whether a design can be easily created
    – Improved definition of the scope of knowledge of a person skilled in the art
    – Specific viewpoints for evaluating the idea and creativity of a design

List of References:
(1) JPO “Revision of the Examination Guidelines for Design: Designs including Graphic Images” (Japanese Only)
(2) JPO “Examination Guidelines for Design” (Provisional English translation)
(3) JPO “Graphic Image Park” (Japanese Only)