Sunday, 23 November 2014
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Design copying becomes criminal offence

The Intellectual Property Act is passing into law today, meaning that deliberate copying of registered designs will become a criminal offence in the UK.

Prison

Source: Mike Cogh

The Government says this new legislation ‘will deter those who knowingly copy UK registered designs and will provide greater protection for our hugely important design sector’.

Accidental copying of design, however, will not be criminalised.

Government says the move is equivalent to the copyright system that protects music and the trademarks that protect brands – both of which are also covered by criminal sanctions.

Group Anti-Copying in Design has been lobbying for the introduction of criminal sanctions, saying that it will ‘act as a deterrent and increase protection for holders of registered designs’, as well as ‘better punish perpetrators of blatant design infringement’.

The new bill is also introducing a ‘Design Opinions Service’, which will be run by the Intellectual Property Office. This will provide low-cost, non-binding and impartial advice on potential design disputes.

It also promises to ‘remove red tape and some of the uncertainties for businesses when protecting their designs’. This will see the IPO update its forms and opening hours in order to better meet the needs of customers. It will also publish design documents online so that they can be reviewed more easily.

Lord Younger, Minister for Intellectual Property, says, ‘Continued investment in intellectual property is vital to all businesses, as it contributes £16 billion to the UK economy each year.

‘It is essential that we continue to work hard to create the right environment for them to flourish so we can benefit from their creative designs, inventions and ideas.’

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For more information on the new Act, visit www.ipo.gov.uk.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Well done to Dids MacDonald,CEO, ACID for over a decade of tireless lobbying to achieve this change. And although it wasn't extended to unregistered designs, its a step in the right direction to deter blatant copying.

    Designers can register their designs and copyright with private registries such as Creative Barcode endorsed by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to the same effect.

    And backed up by the Design Opinions Service when it is launched and/or ACIDs mediation service, the changes should also assist in reducing enforcement costs and importantly levelling the playing field between the David & Goliaths.

    It just remains for designers to be proactive in registering their work and copyright whether with private registries or through the IPO, their national (if not UK based) or international services.

    Many businesses do not realise that apart from USA and China, copyright registration is only provided through private registries and not through IPO and their equivilents around the world.
    Yet unregistered copyright is hard to enforce and in a digital age is getting harder still.

    So designers of all kind need to research and undertake due-diligence to find their favourite private registry and take responsibility for registering and protecting their work in a way that best suits a digital age.

    Those who choose not to could be in danger of affecting their own and their nations creative and cultural history when 'Original Source' is lost and the result of the digital age is 'Designer/Creator' unknown.

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  • This is fantastic news - finally the designs produced by designers have some protection! The very heartbeat of what the design industry produces.

    Also to re-iterate Maxine's comment - congratulations to Dids at ACID, I'm a relative latecomer to the party but its been 10 years hard work from Dids and others to get this protection through.

    As a director of Creative Barcode, I must declare an interest in CB but wholehearted congratulations to all who have lobbied and harried to see this enshrined in law.

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  • Thanks Max and Paul! As you know, Anti-Copying in Design (ACID) has been campaigning for many years to address a shortfall in laws to protect designers and I welcome the fact that the IP Act goes some way to redress this fundamental wrong. It is a significant step in the right direction. However, there is still much work still to be done because the majority of UK designers rely on unregistered rights.

    It has been quite a journey but eventually Ministers and policy makers were prepared to listen to ACID case study evidence which demonstrated blatant and deliberate design infringement as a barrier to growth and a threat to job certainty. Another plus were the valuable debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords highlighted the UK’s vast design capability and raised awareness of the value of design.

    From 1 October 2014 intentionally infringing a registered design and producing a copy that differs from an original in only immaterial respects will become a criminal offence punishable by up to ten years in prison. This is a significant development for designers but for the time being the change in the law will only assist those designers who have registered their designs at either the Intellectual Property Office in England or at the Community Design Office in Alicante.

    Nick Kounoupias, ACID’s Chief Legal Counsel and a partner at DMH Stallard said, “Not everyone is enthused by the new IP Act and its changes to the law. Some sectors of the design industry, mainly retailers but also surprisingly iconic design companies, have complained that these changes to the law will criminalise them. If what they are doing constitutes flagrant copying and the theft of competitor’s designs then frankly we see nothing wrong with them facing the full weight of the criminal courts”.

    Fortunately for those who rely on unregistered design rights, ACID has a Design Data Bank which holds approximately 300,000 designs. In the first UK Designs Exchange, ACID has developed this into ACID marketplace so that designers can now invite potential design buyers to view their designers from a safer trading platform. This industry led initiative, supported by Government, ensures a degree of safety for designers with potential design buyers registering and signing the ACID Buyer's Charter. All viewings are tracked through IP Tracker and we intend to roll this out shortly to all designers, not only ACID members.

    We welcome the Intellectual Property Office’s Designs Opinions Service which will cost £200 and this will be a resource to UK designers. ACID members, however, have had the benefit of a Designs Opinion Service for 15 years and the only difference is that it is FREE. To date, has helped thousands of designers evaluate the strength of their cases before deciding to take legal action!

    Government’s aim is clearly to encourage design registration which is a good move but is only as good as the enforcement regime which supports it. ACID has been invited by Government to work closely with the Intellectual Property Office to improve education and awareness about design rights, identify the benefits of registration and simplify a fast track access to a more simple design registration service.

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