The State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of China issued a revised Examination Guideline with an effective date of May 1, 2014 that has removed electrified screen designs from excluded matter for design patent protection. Accordingly, SIPO will allow design patents to be granted on Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), including GUIs that are animated (dynamic). However, GUIs that are unrelated to human-machine interaction or product function will still be excluded from design patent protection as well as game interfaces. In this regard SIPO specifically mentions on-screen wallpapers, start-up and shut-down screen views and graphic or text elements of a web pages as excluded subject matter.
Contrary to other design protection systems (e.g. Registered Community Designs in the EU) which allow parts of a complex product to be protected, only the design of a whole product can be the subject of a Chinese design patent. With respect to "GUIs", patent design protection in China must also be the form of a design of a "whole product" that encompasses the GUI, e.g. a desk or tablet computer, smart phone etc. Hence, any drawings or photographs filed with a Chinese design application that encompasses a GUI must show such product on which the GUI is visible. If it is an animated GUI, it must show the product in different changed stages during the animation. Chinese patent design protection of the granted GUI design will likely be limited to that specific product that is represented in the submitted drawings or photographs.
When filing a design patent application, SIPO requires that, in addition to the drawings and photographs, the applicant must submit a brief explanation of the design. It is necessary that an accompanying explanation for each design also explains the human-machine interaction and the position and use of the GUI in the product.
If you have further questions relating to the patentability of designs in China you can contact the Manager of our Shanghai office Dr. Oliver Lutze.
Dr. Lutze will be conducting lectures on this topic and other design law developments in a roving seminar series at the end of April organized jointly by SIPO, OHIM and respective local IP offices in Haikou, Changsha and Chengdu.
For more information on the lecture series and for a downloadable copy of Dr Lutze's paper on the topic please visit: www.ipkey.org/en/activities/ip-key-activities/item/53-seminar-rcd