By Vincent Fong & Vera Sung
On 1 May 2014, the China State Intellectual Property Office (the “SIPO”) revised its Patent Examination Guidelines to extend protection to graphical user interface (the “GUI”) under patent for design.
GUI is a type of interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices through graphical icons and visual indicators such as secondary notation, as opposed to text-based interfaces, typed command labels or text navigation.
Prior to the amendment, according to the examination guidelines, “pattern shown on a product after it is switched on; for example, pattern on the electronic watch display, pattern on screen of mobile phone, software interface, and so on” are ineligible for design patent.
Subsequent to the amendment, GUI per se is not patentable. However a product together with its GUI is patentable.
Samples of patentable GUI for design:
• a mobile phone with its home screen and icons;
• a PC with a software interface
Therefore, the same interface used on different products may require separation registration. For instance, same interface used on a mobile phone and tablet computer requires two design applications. The GUI could be static or dynamic (animated GUI). As the GUI must be registered as a part of a product, the protection in China is narrower than that in the U.S. and Europe.
Game interface, pattern that is not related to the human machine interaction or realization of product’s function are not patentable.
Samples of not patentable GUI for design:
• Wallpaper for example the tulips wallpaper with a laptop
• Startup animation;
• Shut down animation; and
• Layout of webpage.
As corresponding design application in the U.S. and Europe is unlikely to include view of the GUI as a part of a product, for example GUI of a phone without showing the phone, therefore it is uncertain that applicant will be able to claim priority to the foreign application when filing in China.
Contents of Application
The Design maybe presented in drawings or photographs.
Under the amended examination guidelines, on top of the general requirements apply to all patent for design application, applicant applying for patent for design for GUI is required to provide a brief description on the uses of the GUI, position of the GUI on the product, the way user and the GUI interacts and different states of the animation (if applicable).
How can OLN assist?
OLN and our Intellectual Property team in Hong Kong and Shanghai can assist you with all your patent and intellectual property issues and in particular, registering and enforcing your patent right in China.
This article is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and readers should not regard this article as a substitute for detailed advice in individual instances.