United Kingdom accedes to Locarno Agreement

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has acceded to the Locarno Agreement Establishing an International Classification for Industrial Designs. The agreement forms a special union of countries that have adopted a single classification for industrial designs. The United Kingdom is the forty-third country to accede to the agreement, joining countries ranging from Austria to Uruguay.

The Locarno Classification is comprised of:

  • a list of classes and subclasses;

  • an alphabetical list of goods in which industrial designs are incorporated (with an indication of the classes and subclasses into which they fall); and

  • explanatory notes.

For example, Christmas tree decorations are classified under 11-05: Class 11 refers to articles of adornment; Subclass 05 covers flags and festive decorations. Countries may choose to adopt the classification as their principal or subsidiary system, and it will be of a solely administrative nature unless the country chooses to give it legal scope.

The advantages of this harmonization are clear - it enables people (i) to search for registered designs within a single industrial design database (thus decreasing the chances of inadvertent infringement of another design), and (ii) to conduct international exchanges of documents without the complications of reclassification. Indeed, such is the universal recognition of the classification that the World Intellectual Property Organization's International Bureau and the Benelux Designs Office (in The Hague) have both adopted it in their registers and publications, and many countries that are not yet party to the agreement nevertheless make use of the resources it provides.

The United Kingdom, and more specifically, the Designs Registry of the Patent Office, has been complying with the Locarno Agreement for some time. The biggest change brought about by the accession to the agreement is therefore likely to be that the United Kingdom will now be represented on the Committee of Experts. The classification list currently contains 6,831 different types of goods (listed under 32 classes and 223 subclasses) and the committee's main responsibility is to keep this list up to date. A new edition of the classification is brought out every five years, the eighth edition was published in September 2003 and came into force on January 1 2004. The classification is published in French and English.

Nick Rose, Field Fisher Waterhouse, London

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