Asia Patent Alliance

Protection of screen designs in Korea, China and Japan

Information terminals like smart phones and car navigation devices with touch panels have become quite common. In accordance with this technical innovation, designs of operation panels shown on screens can now be protected under the design law.

Below we will explain the scope of digital screen design protection, rights for partial designs and screen transition, etc. in Japan, China and Korea. In Japan and Korea, operation panels shown as images can be protected by the design law. But in order to fall under the scope of protection, the screen design needs to be integrated in a design of a good. The law only protects “designs related to goods”. Therefore, designs that are isolated from the good cannot be registered. Especially in Japan, operation screens of installed software downloaded from the internet cannot be registered as design. That is to say, only screen designs that are contained in the terminal at the time when the terminal is bought can be protected as design. On the other hand, in Korea, screens of software installed at a later time can also be protected as design

Also, in Japan, there is the condition that screen designs “must be necessary for executing a function of the good”. Digital screens that fall under the protection of the design law must have a function of some sort. Simple patterns are not target of protection. Therefore, an operation panel of a smart phone or a screen design of a digital clock can be protected, but a simple pattern used as monitor background or such cannot be protected as it has no function. (Picture below)

 photo fig1_edited-1_zpsf810a43c.jpg
(Example for a design not recognized – Image for background decoration (wallpaper) )

On the other hand, in Korea, a function or operability is not required for a screen design. If there is integration between the terminal and the design, the design can be registered. Furthermore, in China, the design registration of digital designs is not allowed. The following table summarizes the most important information regarding screen designs in Japan, China and Korea.

Screen designs in Japan, China and Korea


Protection of digital screens by the design law

Necessity of function or operability

Images downloaded to the terminal from internet













The next part explains the transition and change of screens. In Japan, in order to have several images protected in one design, the images have to be used for the same function of the good (1) and one image has to be related to the previous image and the following one (2). This regulation is almost the same in Korea. If a design retains a unified shape while changing, it can be filed as fluid design, for example, a change of the bar showing the volume level on the volume adjusting screen (example 2) or when the history button of a cell phone with pedometer function is pressed, the past records are shown as graph (example 1).

Example 1 for several images in one design
front view)                       (front view after change

 photo fig2_zps8b9a49bf.jpg
Both are images for the pedometer function

Example 2 for several images in one design
Enlarged partial view)                                   (Enlarged partial view after change

 photo fig3_zpsee02f375.jpg

If a screen design is filed in Japan or Korea, a protection can be requested for the goods including the screen design, but it is also possible to (like the cell phone example above) disclaim the cell phone (shown by the dotted line) and file the screen design as partial design. If the design is filed as partial design, even if the design of the terminal changes, the screen design still remains protected.

All above images have been taken from the JPO design examination standard.