Taking counsel

  • 2005-11-09
  • By Inese Rendeniece [ LOZE, GRUNTE & CERS ]
Effect of internationally registered industrial designs in Latvia

On July 26, 2005 the Geneva Act of The Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs entered force in Latvia. The Geneva Act is the newest act in The Hague system. It was adopted July 2, 1999 and is aimed at facilitating accession to The Hague Agreement by new contracting parties, for example, by extending the refusal period to 12 months.

The ratification of the Geneva Act by Latvia brings the number of the contracting parties to this act to 18 and the total number of contracting parties to the Hague Agreement to 42. Latvian ratification was accompanied by the following declarations:

- a declaration as referred to in Article 4(1)(b) of the Geneva Act, to the effect that international applications may not be filed through the office in Latvia;

- a declaration as required under Article 17(3)(c) of the Geneva Act, specifying that the maximum duration of protection provided for by the legislation of Latvia in respect of industrial designs is 25 years.

One may perceive this ratification as remote since with Latvia's joining the European Union, community designs are also protected in Latvia. However, international registration is still relevant for Latvian design owners since the contracting parties to the Geneva Act include such important markets as, for example, Switzerland and Turkey.

In the same way it is possible for the designs originated in the contracting parties to The Hague Agreement to acquire protection in Latvia through single registration without the necessity to apply to the Latvian Patent Office under the national procedure.

An application for international registration of an industrial design must be filed with the WIPO International Office in Geneva. Persons entitled to file an application for an international registration include individuals and legal entities having a connection 's through establishment, domicile or nationality 's with a contracting state.

Latvian Industrial Designs Law explicitly provides that the international registration of designs has the same effect as the registration of designs in accordance with the national procedure. It means that the issues important for those wishing to acquire protection of their designs in Latvia through international registration will mostly be connected with the very procedure until registration.

In accordance with the Geneva Act, the office of any designated contracting party may refuse the effects of the international registration in that contracting party if the conditions for the grant of protection under its domestic law are not met.

So the most important issue in the process of international registration of an industrial design concerns the domestic law conditions for granting protection. Latvian law provides a clear answer to this: The Latvian Patent Office adopts a decision on refusal only in cases when (1) the particular design does not correspond to the definition of an industrial design under the Industrial Designs Law; or (2) the design in accordance with Article 9 of the Industrial Designs Law is not entitled to protection.

The definition of an industrial design under the Latvian Industrial Designs Law corresponds to the universal understanding 's an industrial design for the purposes of Latvian law is the outward appearance of a product or part of it resulting from the features of the product or its ornamentation, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture or materials.

The designs not entitled to protection under Article 9 of the Industrial Designs Law are (1) designs contrary to public policy or morality; (2) designs that subsist in features of appearance which are solely dictated by its technical function; (3) designs that subsist in features of appearance of a product which must necessarily be reproduced in their exact form and dimensions in order to permit the product in which the design is incorporated or to which it is applied to be mechanically connected to or placed in, around or against another product so that either product may perform its function except for designs serving the purpose of allowing the multiple assembly or connection of mutually interchangeable products within a modular system provided that they fulfil the requirements of novelty and individual character.

From the above, it follows that the legal situation as far as Latvian law is concerned is sufficiently clear, and design owners wishing to acquire protection of their designs in Latvia through international registration may do so by virtue of the recent ratification of the Geneva Act.

Inese Rendeniece is a lawyer at the law firm Loze, Grunte & Cers in Riga.