ACID warns government unregistered design rights must be Brexit-proof

Unregistered design right is protected within EU law, but negotiation talks have not recognised its importance according to an open letter to the Prime Minister.

Anti Copying in Design (ACID) has begun the new year with a renewed effort to signal the importance of design rights in a post-Brexit UK.

ACID CEO Dids Macdonald OBE has written an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, imploring him to seek continued protection for unregistered design rights. In it, she warns of a “potentially calamitous” situation should the UK leave the EU without an agreement that appropriately and sturdily enshrines these intellectual property rights into the EU-UK divorce deal.

The UK’s current position in the EU ensures unregistered design rights are protected for three years, in regard to shape, colour, contours, lines, ornamentation and texture. These protections are automatic, coming into effect from the moment a design is first disclosed to the public.

Infographic courtesy of ACID

Protections also exist in the UK, but only look at shape and configuration, meaning designers would be at a considerable loss with just this legislation. The government has said it will introduce a supplementary unregistered design right which will mirror the broader EU protection, but this will only offer protection in the UK, and not in the EU27 – the number of EU states left after the UK leaves.

Without an understanding between the government and the EU, UK designers will be susceptible to copying from overseas – usually from larger companies, says Macdonald. For the last three-and-a-half years, ACID says it has submitted evidence to this effect, but the government’s response via its Intellectual Property Office has consistently been to advise designers they should seek legal advice.

“We’re told the UK has one of the best copyright policy systems in the world for registered work, but the majority of designers rely on unregistered protections because the majority of designers are lone, micro and SME workers who can’t afford legal action,” Macdonald tells Design Week.

Infographic courtesy of ACID

“And even if they could, IP lawyers won’t give them advice because no one can be sure how things will fall when the Brexit agreement is finally signed.”

The lack of action, Macdonald says, has much to do with many politicians underestimating or not understanding the true scale of the contribution the creative industries offer the UK economy. “As a campaign group, it’s really just about us shouting as loud as we can about this issue and making sure it gets to cabinet level.”

According to Macdonald, to truly enshrine the rights of designers, unregistered design rights must be tabled at trade talks. And as with ACID’s 2014 success in criminalising the intentional infringement of registered designs, similar punishments should be enforced for unregistered designs. Finally, she calls for the appointment of a dedicated intellectual property minister, who can be charged to oversee everything.

ACID is calling on designers of all description and discipline to petition the government either through their own message, or retweeting and sharing others’ messages. A template is also available, which is as follows:

“We support trade body @ACID_tweets letter to @BorisJohnson @10DowningStreet

calling for urgent negotiations to help UK #designers protect their #designs in EU27 post #Brexit @The_IPO @AllianceIP

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