The United Kingdom has indicated that it will ratify and join the Hague Agreement for International design registration by 31 March 2018. The announcement was included in a statement of the performance targets for the Intellectual Property Office for 2017-2018.
The Hague Agreement is an international agreement which provides a mechanism to file a single application for design registration which can take effect in a number of territories around the world. Although the Hague Agreement was little used by UK companies until a couple of years ago, this changed when Japan and the United States joined the Hague Agreement in 2015.
However, at the present time, UK companies are entitled to use the Hague Agreement because the UK is part of the European Union, and the European Union is a signatory. Therefore the significance of the UK joining the Hague Agreement is that this will enable UK companies to continue to file Hague Agreement applications after Brexit, and also enable the UK to be covered by Hague Agreement applications which are filed after Brexit.
Going forwards, a UK company wanting to obtain registered design protection covering the current EU will be able to file a Hague Agreement application designating the UK and the EU as well as other territories which are members of the Hague Agreement, and we expect this to be a reasonably popular filing strategy. A list of current signatories to the Hague Agreement can be found here.