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Enhancement of the Level of Creativity Required for Registrability

For the promotion of the development of creative designs, the provision concerning the level of creativity (Article No. 3(2)) has been revised. The former Design Law stipulated that, if a design could easily have been created, prior to the filing of the design application, by a person with ordinary skill in the art to which the design pertains, on the basis of a shape, pattern, or color, or a combination thereof widely known in Japan, a design registration should not be granted. The current law raises the level of creativity by changing the "widely known in Japan" statement to "publicly known in Japan or abroad". Accordingly, a design that could easily have been created by a person with ordinary skill in the art to which the design pertains on the basis of publicly known designs or motifs in Japan or abroad will be rejected.

Examples are provided below.

A design created on the basis of a publicly known design only by making partial changes to the structural elements of the design such as a change of material, an addition of colors and/or color change, or an addition and/or elimination of patterns.


A design created on the basis of a publicly known design by making changes to the arrangement and/or ratio of all or a part of the structural elements of the design or a design created on the basis of a combination of several publicly known designs.


A design created on the basis of a publicly known shape, pattern, color, or a combination thereof with little change, or a design created on the basis of a natural object or a publicly known building with little change.


A design created by merely diverting a publicly known design for a commercial purpose.


However, if an application has been rejected for reasons ? and/or ? above, it may be possible to overcome the rejection by asserting that, although all of the structural elements are publicly known, the design, judged as a whole, has created a new aesthetic effect.