China Grants First Patents to Graphical User Interface Designs

The State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of China has issued the first four design patents protecting graphical user interfaces (GUIs). The patents issued were filed by Beijing Qiyi Century Science & Technology Co.,LTD., Keniu Network Technology (Beijing) LTD., and Kingsoft Network Technology Co., LTD. on Thursday, May 1, 2014, the very day new design patent regulations permitting the patenting of GUI in China went into effect.

GUI allows users to interact with electronic devices through graphical icons and other visual elements. In the past several years, rapid technological development has made GUI a vital factor in the success of many product categories not typically associated with software, such as home appliances.

GUI was only recently recognized as patentable after the SIPO issued the final version of the amended Patent Examination Guidelines. The revisions, effective as of May 1, 2014, allow design patents to be granted on GUIs including those that are animated. Prior to May 1, China had prohibited patents covering “those graphic displays that exist only after the product is turned on.”

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