To those in the IT industry

Introduction

To those in the IT industry

After the IT revolution occurred from the end of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21th century, IT technologies are still remarkably developing. Now, many people use products and services created due to benefits of the IT technologies. Examples of such products and services include e-mails, online shopping services, SNS (Social Networking Service), information home appliances, and cloud services. The IT technologies also play roles of an infrastructure to support our life and economy. Further, use of the IT technologies is still increasing year by year. This trend can be seen from a prevalence rate of “smartphones” which can be referred to as a compilation of the IT technologies (for example, prevalence rate of the smartphones is over 90% in the twenties and over 80% in the thirties (as of 2014)).

Entire sales of the IT industry (i.e., the information service industry) began to grow rapidly in the 1990s, and, as of 2013, the sales reached 2.1 trillion yen, and working population became 1.03 million. Now, the IT industry has an enormous scale close to a scale of other basic industries in Japan, such as the automobile industry and electronics industry. Thus, the IT industry is one of the industries which attract attention the most, and are expected to have expansion of demand and supply steadily in the future.

The information service industry includes a wide range of industries, such as a software industry, an information processing and providing industry, and an internet related service industry. In this web page, we would like to introduce topics mainly related to those in the software industry. We hope this web page benefits those who are considering to file a design application.

Revision of the Examination Guidelines for Design related to screen design(came into force on April 1, 2016)

A display screen design for software is important because it determines software’s operability and sense of beauty. If the display screen design for software is unattractive, a user would not become interested in the software even if the software has an excellent function or a good price. This trend is remarkable especially in the smartphone application software market which has been booming in recent years.

It has become usual for us to install an application corresponding to smartphones from App store® or Google play® in accordance with rapid development of information communication technologies in recent years. In order to fit into changes of the times, such as the above new trend of installment and rapid prevalence of smartphones, the revised Examination Guidelines for Design started to be applied to a design registration application filed after April 1, 2016. This revision expands a range of a screen design covered by a design right.

Functional image “recorded afterward” in article also becomes protectable

Design system before revision (before March in 2016)

Only “an image recorded in advance in an article” (embedded image in a device) could be registered as a design. Therefore, images, for example, “an image recorded afterward in the article,” and “an image which is displayed by installing software in computers, such as PCs, smartphones” could not be registered as a design.

Design System after revision on April 1 in 2016

  • The current provision which demands that an image used in an article should be an image “recorded in advance” in the article was relaxed. Then, under the new provision, the image used in the article is regarded as an image that constitutes a “design” that is integrated to the article by being “recorded” in the article regardless of when the image is recorded in the article. Thus, such an image (including an updated image related to a function owned by the article) can be registered as a design.
  • Under the new provision, an image recorded in a computer by installing software which realizes a specific function is regarded as an image that constitutes a “design” for the computer having an additional function (i.e., “a computer having a function X”). Thus, such an image can be registered as a design.
Example to be protected

◆According to the above revision of the Examination Guidelines for Design, “a display image of software installed in a smartphone” and “a display image of software installed in a computer” have become protectable.

⇒ Accordingly, this revision is meaningful to companies which develop and sell software for smartphones and computers.

◆A design application related to a display design can be filed by designating an article as “a computer having a function X” in a design application.

For reference: Requirements for being protected

※Note here, (i) an image which is displayed by an article but is derived from a signal from outside of the article, and (ii) an image design for a content independent of the article are still not protectable by a design right.

<Examples>

  • Image of website
  • Image of TV program
  • Image of game
  • Image of application which runs on the Web (image of software used though the Internet (including cloud computing))
  • Image of application installed to article, which image is derived from signal on server and is temporary displayed by the article
For reference: Image which is not regarded as image that constitutes design

Risk of infringement due to expansion of protection range

The fact that the screen designs stated above have become patentable by design rights means that there is a possibility that your screen design being used or your screen design to be used in the future will infringe a design right owned by the other person. In order to avoid such a situation, prior design investigation is useful. This investigation will also enhance possibility of obtaining a design right safely. We can also provide prior investigation service for you.

We also support overseas design registration application

Today’s IT industry has no border in its business range. The IT industry deals with electronic data which is basically “intangible”, and thus products made by imitating a design for the electronic data easily appear on the market through the Internet. In particular, an image design for software can be imitated without difficulty in Japan and abroad and thus easily causes damage. Accordingly, we strongly recommend those in the IT industry to file a design application also in other countries at the same time as you obtain a design right in Japan. Please feel free to contact us also when you consider expanding your business in other countries.

Management of design rights differs among countries. For example, (i) Europe and the United states which are advanced countries in intellectual properties where screen designs became protectable ahead of Japan, (ii) East Asian and South East Asian countries which are experiencing rapid economic growth recently, and (iii) other countries each have their own practice, and require their know-how about a manner to resister a design, and there are also measures other than applying design rights to protect designs. Having the experiences in the field of design rights, we are happy to support you. Japan joined the Hague Agreement in 2015, which allowed us to file international design applications. With use of this system, it is possible to simplify registration procedures and reduce cost.

We support those in the IT industry

In the IT industry, in many cases, much effort is made in a screen design so that the screen design attracts users’ attention among enormous competitive products. However, once the screen design hits on the market, the screen design is imitated and the imitated design appears on the market in a moment.

There may be some cases where those in the IT industry will face a situation that forces them to deal with an issue of intellectual property rights. We have established a system to provide thorough support for protecting intellectual properties of those in the whole IT industry as well as those in the software industry. Please feel free to contact us.

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