This past Friday, February 13, 2015, the U.S. deposited with WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization) in Geneva its instruments of ratification to the Hague Agreement. As a result, the U.S. will become a full member of the Hague Union in 90 days, as of May 13, 2015. The Hague Union will grow to 62 countries and territories by this May 13th.
Once the Hague Agreement goes into force, U.S. design patent applicants (and non-U.S. applicants who seek design protection in the U.S.) will obtain two significant advantages. First, applicants can file a single design patent application with the PTO or with WIPO and thereby seek extended design protection with all other Hague Union members. Second, U.S. design patent protection will have a 15 year term from the date of grant for applications filed on or after May 13, 2015.
Presently, and prior to May 13, 2015, it is not possible for a U.S. design patent applicant to obtain design protection outside of the U.S. without separately filing in all relevant jurisdictions. And presently, the term of a U.S. design patent is 14 years from date of grant.
The PTO has not yet issued rules of practice under the Hague Agreement, but final rules are expected from the PTO by May 13, 2015.
More information concerning the U.S. accession to the Hague Agreement is available here form the PTO.