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Law Update: Partial Design Patents

Patent Law: CNIPA has begun reviewing Partial Design patents

On June 1, 2021, the amended “Patent Law of the People’s Republic of China” officially came into effect. One of the significant changes in the new patent law is the allowance for the application of partial design patents. However, the latest patent examination guidelines and detailed implementation rules for the patent law are still under revision. Even though applications are already being accepted, the review process had been somewhat stagnant.

In China, since there isn’t a system like in some countries where you can specify categories for partial designs, the number of applications can only be estimated using the following search method. In the CNIPA database, the application date is set to “after June 1, 2021,” and the keyword is set to “partial design (partial appearance).” A search conducted on August 11, 2023, resulted in 85 items. Since not all partial design applications explicitly mention “partial design” in their brief descriptions, the actual number might be slightly more than 85. Regardless, the data suggests that the review process has picked up to some extent.

Based on the granted rights and the notification letters of corrections that we’ve received, we have summarized some key points to note when applying for partial designs:

I. Title or Name

In the product’s name, it’s essential to specify the part to be protected and the entire product that includes that part. For instance, “car door” or “mobile phone camera.” This requirement differs from the regulations in some other countries, so special attention is needed.

In some of our partial design applications, we received correction notifications related to the name, where the examiner stated, “The application does not clearly specify the part to be protected… if applying for a partial design, the product’s name must clearly list the part to be protected and the whole product containing it.” Therefore, when applying, it’s best to name the product in the format of the whole plus protected part.

II. Drawings or Photos

It’s mandatory to submit a view of the entire product and clearly indicate the content to be protected, either using a combination of dotted and solid lines or other methods. Given the distinction between dotted and solid lines, this aspect might not pose an issue.

However, if color layers are used to indicate the protected portion, there might be feedback on the clarity or distinguishability of the colors used. In one of our partial design application’s correction notification, it was pointed out, “The semi-transparent color layer is not clearly indicated, making it hard to accurately mark the part to be protected; it’s recommended to use colors with significant hue differences.” Thus, if attempting to differentiate between the protected and non-protected areas using color, it’s advisable to use colors with noticeable hue differences.

III. Similar designs

In China, multiple similar designs can be submitted as one application. But, in the “Examination Opinion Explanation” second revised draft (released on October 31, 2022), it was prohibited to submit the whole and partial designs of the same product in a single application.

Yet, in the cases that have already been granted and registered, there are instances that don’t necessarily adhere to this stipulation.

However, given that there are approved cases, it’s worth trying when submitting an application. If the examiner suggests filing a separate application, you can then file one at that time.