What is a partial design?
A partial design is a form of a design registration focusing only on a unique part of a certain design.
How effective is this system?
Similarity of designs is measured based on the whole shape of designs. Even if parts of a design seem to be identical, both designs may be determined to be dissimilar if the overall impression of a design differs from another design. Thus, a third party might have the possibility to imitate a unique part of a design while creating other parts being different. The partial design system is useful to prevent imitating products because a mere unique part of a whole design is protected.
In addition, in Japan, it is not possible to file multiple designs in one application. Thus, for the creation of a variety of designs which share identical parts, an application for every design has to be filed. However, only one partial design application may cover all series of designs.
How to apply for a partial design?
The application form must indicate a “partial design” upon filing. It is not possible to change a normal application into a “partial design” application after having filed the application.
In addition, in the drawings, the part of the design for which protection is sought shall be shown in solid lines and the environment or surrounding area shall be shown in broken or dashed lines.
Alternatively, the part of the design for which protection is sought may be shown in different colors in order to identify protected and non-protected parts.
Although the part of design for which protection is sought does not appear in some of the views, six views can still be necessary. The following example is a design for a “lamp bulb.” Even though the partial design does not appear in the “top view”, all views are required.
Partial design based on a priority design application
Where a basic application seeks protection only for a specific part within the whole shape, it is possible to claim a priority right. As long as the protected part is clearly indicated and distinguished from the other part for which protection is not sought, it is possible to use the “Partial Design”, regardless of how the part is indicated in the basic application, e.g. by the use of lines or color parts.
Are there any disadvantages for the partial design?
The chances for a successful registration may be lower than those for normal applications (whole design applications) because the Examiner only compares the unique part of the partial design to prior publicly known designs. For example, the Examiner may cite the following design against the above design application for a table because the shape of the legs are excluded from the partial design application and do not affect similarity/ dissimilarity of the two designs:
Thus, depending on the shape of the protected part, the design should be filed as a normal design application or as a partial design application.