APAA e-Newsletter (Issue No. 32, December 2022)

Examples of Registered Interior Designs in Japan

Tetsuya Fuse, SOEI Patent & Law Firm (Japan)

  1. Introduction

Due to revisions to JP Design Law, design applications for interiors have been accepted since April 1, 2020. About 370 interior designs have been registered since then.

Regarding interior designs, there are specific provisions relating to each element that constitutes the interior. Further, their filing method indicates devices that differ from those of articles, and there is great interest in how the contents of interior designs have been registered.

This piece therefore covers examples of registered interiors, and examines fields in which the interiors are registered along with how they are disclosed, as well as attempts to analyze examples that can be used as references for determining similarity.


  1. Main Fields in which Interiors are Registered

Interior designs that are registrable under JP design law are those provided for as relating to “internal equipment and decorations of stores, offices, and other facilities.” There are no restrictions on their use or function provided that they are “for people to spend a certain period of time within.” In reality, registration has been relatively conspicuous in areas such as housing, offices, retail stores, restaurants, and workrooms for commercial use. Additionally, registration of interiors for laundromats, hair salons, hospitals, and sports facilities can also be seen.

Registration No. 1677595, “Interior of a Control Room of a Plant”

Further, not only real estate but also the interiors of movable/personal property such as automobiles can be registered under the JP design law. In reality, however, designs for the interiors of movable/personal property have been limited to few registrations such as those for mobile stalls/sales vehicles and passenger compartments of ships.

Interior designs consist of pluralities of articles such as furniture, fixtures, and facilities, and are an exception to the one design-one application concept. Looking at objects that constitute interior designs thus reveals various registrations such as those for positions between floors and work equipment, positional relations between pieces of furniture, and combinations between display shelves and display items.

Registration No. 1697536, “Interior of a Hospital Room”

Incidentally, “uniform aesthetic sense in overall interior” is stated in the Design Act as a requirement for registration, and the Examination Guidelines explain uniformity by giving examples of item arrangements based on a unifying theme, or forming geometric patterns. Actual registered designs, however, do not appear to strictly require clear uniformity.


  1. Expressions for Disclosing Interior designs

Interior designs are also required to clearly disclose their use, function, and composition in application documents, as are designs for articles. At which time, the examination standards require regarding their use and function that both use/function of the facility overall and use/function of said interior must be clearly indicated.

In response, there appear to be examples of registrations wherein the “interior of an office lounging room” and “interior of a store accounting area” are described. On the other hand, there are many examples of simply the terms “interior of a house” or “interior of an office” being registered. Even in which case, however, the use and function of said interior can be determined from recitations, drawings, the like of the applications.

Additionally, the disclosure of various views is accepted as a form of disclosure, provided that they do not affect identification of designs, and disclosures from various directions other than the orthographic view are acceptable. In fact, there appear to be many examples of designs being registered using expressions that clarify characteristics thereof, such as expressions using perspective or disclosures on states of ceilings or walls being removed.

Registration No. 1671152, “Interior of a Bookstore”

Moreover, interior designs are required to disclose at least one from between a floor, wall, or ceiling, which means that at least one of these appears throughout, including portions in broken lines. In fact, there are examples of the interior of a cosmetics sales floor being registered only in a state wherein five cosmetics containers are arranged on a counter while showing the floor as a non-registered part.

Registration No. 1684907, “Interior of a Cosmetics Store”


  1. Scope of Similarity for Interior designs

According to the Examination Guidelines, standards for determining similarity in interior designs is the same as for conventional articles. Moreover, it states that the points to consider in interior designs include the viewpoints of owners/users in the case of housing and the like, and the viewpoints of users in the case of commercial facilities.

Additionally, it states regarding differences in use and function, as specific to interior designs, that interior designs for both are considered to be similar because they are common in that “a person spends a certain period of time within.” That is, even differing office interiors and fitness club interiors are deemed to be similar when they are of the same configuration.

Determination of similarity in form is the same as for conventional articles, and the size and position of the design overall, visibility to consumers, and differences from conventional designs appear to be considered as major determining factors. Specifically, the following designs are registered as related designs because they are similar.

Example of related “Interior of a Traffic Terminal” designs.

The following designs, however, although they have points in common, were determined to be dissimilar as designs overall due to their differences being deemed significant.

Example of dissimilar “Interior of a Retail Store” designs

These examples of registration serve as references for indicating the scope of similarity of interior designs, i.e., the scope of rights.


  1. Conclusion

The system of interior designs may be new, but the number of registered cases is expected to truly take off in the near future. Rights acquisition through design registration will hereafter be an effective means for utilizing intellectual property to establish market advantages by employing interior designs. Further, there is room for various devices in description/explanation as well as illustrative expression when filing applications for interior designs, given that certain requirements are satisfied, with it also being possible to show original features by employing unique expressions.

We thus have great expectations for the further utilization of interior designs in the near future.