Under the new Design Act, 2020 in Japan enforced from April 1, 2020, designs of graphic images, architectures of buildings and interiors of buildings are now protected. As of October 1, 2020, already 450 applications have already been received for graphic images, while 204 and 132 applications have been received for building architectures and interior designs respectively.

Earlier, while images were covered under the Designs Act, they were only protected if they were recorded and displayed on a physical article. Now, the scope of "image design" has been expanded and images provided by a network and originally stored on the cloud are protected. Graphic images such as holograms projected onto walls, roads or the human body are also given protection. This includes images viewed in virtual reality and augmented reality.

This comes as a welcome change in design law in Japan, however remains to be behind the US and Europe due to the restrictive exhaustive definition under the Act.

However, the expansion of definitions to include architectures and interior designs is very welcome - where the Act remained significantly outdated. Any structure that is man-made and has land-fixed material can be protected under the former definition, including schools, factories, residences, commercial buildings, stadiums, bridges, dams, etc. The internal space and design of these structures are also protected.

On the other hand, interior designs include primarily the set-up of furniture and items that make up the aesthetic appearance of an interior - including desks, chairs, beds, displays, lighting, décor, walls, ceilings, etc. It is required to have a cohesive creative idea and design to be given protection, and not mere placement of objects.

As more and more companies try to create their distinctive brands, the new changes in the Act is shaping to be a great relief for designers.

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