A lack of design rights expertise leaves manufacturers vulnerable

Design rights are the ‘forgotten quarter’ of intellectual property protection among UK manufacturers, according to a survey by law firm Nabarro Nathanson that highlights many companies’ ignorance of the subject.

Nearly half of those polled (48 per cent) admitted that they could be infringing a company’s design right or simply ‘do not know’ if their products were breaching another registration.

Despite ‘all sectors of industry’ now talking the language of product design and branding, knowledge of design law is poor, the research suggests, with nearly 50 per cent of respondents saying they are ‘not at all aware’ or only ‘vaguely aware’ of legislation.

Nabarro Nathanson intellectual property partner Guy Heath says many companies are missing out on ‘a powerful tool’ to protect their designs. ‘Manufacturers talk of patents, trademarks and copyright quite happily. But few are conversant with design rights and protection [and] put themselves at risk of infringing somebody else’s rights,’ he says.

The EU Design Registration, which came into effect in April and offers protection for up to 25 years, is improving awareness, but UK laws still have a low profile.

Anti Copying in Design chief executive Dids Macdonald says, ‘The lack of knowledge is sometimes astounding. Manufacturers need to take responsibility as part of their R&D to see how they can protect their investment.’

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