Acid and IP experts criticise The Gowers Review

The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property falls far short of protecting designers against unlawful imitation, according to IP design experts and trade bodies.

The report by Andrew Gowers, commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last December, was released on Wednesday and is an independent review into the UK Intellectual Property Framework.

Industry lobby group Anti-Copying in Design made several submissions for the review – including calls for the introduction of a new law of unlawful imitation – as well as demanding that design right infringements have criminal sanctions and for an increase in exemplary damages.

The review goes some way to address the key issues and recommends a voluntary register for copyright. It also recognises that IP crime can be extremely damaging, and it is essential that rights holders are able to protect and exploit their intellectual property. In response, the Department for Constitutional Affairs has been recommended to consult on the issue of civil damages.

However, Acid and IP experts in the design field believe many of the submissions have been overlooked and these findings do not go far enough.

Dids Macdonald, Acid chief executive, says, ‘The report falls far short of Acid’s determination to introduce a new law of unlawful imitation to address the problem of free-riding to bring the UK into line with the rest of Europe on unfair competition.’

In addition, Macdonald believes that the disparity between copyright owners and design right owners has not been addressed and questions why an artist, author or songwriter should be entitled to stronger rights and be able to rely on criminal sanctions, while a furniture or lighting designer cannot.

Simon Clark, head of IP at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, points out that there is a need for higher damages for design copyright infringement to deter imitation. He says, ‘It is disappointing in that it (the review) continues to sit on the fence on important issues like the adequacy of civil compensation payments for IP rights infringements.’

There are some encouraging findings for the industry from the report, according to Macdonald. These include the endorsement of Acid’s Educate to Protect campaign as ‘a good example of how public and industry awareness can be increased’.

It also proposed lowering the litigation costs, by using mediation and consulting on the fast-track limit, while acknowledging that high legal costs affect the ability of many to defend and challenge IP.

Gowers says, ‘I believe that the review has made a positive contribution to the design industry, and in particular, in enforcing design rights.

‘I agree that design is complex, however, the UK is required by directive to retain registered design competency as well as the Community Design Right. I believe that education for designers is vital, which is why I commend initiatives such as Acid’s Educate to Protect campaign.’


The Gowers Review

• The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property by Andrew Gowers was commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last December
• Acid makes submissions for law of unlawful imitation and increase in damages
• Key proposals: voluntary register for copyright, the Department for Constitutional Affairs to consult on the issue of civil damages and a suggestion to lower the cost of litigation
• The report endorses Acid’s Educate to Protect campaign
• Acid and IP experts call for more action for unlawful imitation and to address the disparity between copyright owners and design right owners

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