Deliberate copying of design to become criminal offence

The UK Government is set to change the law to make the deliberate copying of design a criminal offence.

Old Bailey

Source: Paul Robertson

The law change is being brought about to make it easier for designers – particularly independent designers and SMEs – to protect their work.

The change would see breaching design right becoming a criminal offence – in line with breaching copyright and trademark laws, which are already criminal offences. Design right gives automatic protection for unregistered designs and generally refers to 3D rather than 2D or pattern designs.

The current design right system, which relies on the civil courts, has been criticised as being costly, time-consuming and leading to uncertainty.

The Government’s Intellectual Property Office, which has announced the new legislation, says, ‘This supports evidence received by the IPO over a number of years that design theft is, and remains, a real and significant concern for designers and businesses.’

Organisation Anti-Copying in Design has campaigned for 18 years to enact this law change. ACID chief executive Dids Macdonald says, ‘It’s great that the Government has taken the first step to protect designers from those who copy their designs, but there is still a long way to go to ensure we receive the same protection as musicians or film-makers.

‘We will continue to make the case for what is a £33.5 billion industry, involving around 350 000 people and dominated mainly by micro and small businesses, the majority of whom rely on unregistered design rights protection, which has not been included in the current Government proposals.’

John Mathers, chief executive of the Design Council, says, ‘This is good news for designers, good news for consumers and great news for the UK as a global hub of design talent.’

The law change follows a lengthy review process of UK design right laws, which started with the publication of the Hargreaves Review in 2011.

The review made several recommendations around increasing the clarity and ease of the system, which were put out to consultation last year.

The Government has now decided to implement a series of measures based on these recommendations.

As well as criminalising design copying, it is also introducing changes such as changing the laws relating to initial ownership of designs, meaning that in design rights cases the ownership will now lie with the designer rather than the commissioning body, as had been the case previously.

You can read the Government’s proposed legislation changes in full here.

Hide Comments (8)Show Comments (8)
  • Ian November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    And in China?

  • Mike Williams November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    There is value in both preventing theft and also protecting a fair-use commons. The key is of course clarifying the difference between deliberately referential (legal) versus deliberate rip-offs (illegal), though I don’t envy whoever gets to decide and define something that is usually quite subjective, especially if the resulting offense is criminal instead of civil. But primarily, I hope this does not become something that discourages or prevents designers from creating referential work for fear of infringement on someone else’s design right.

  • Dids Macdonald November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    In a survey carried out by ACID, 97% said that copying was blatant and deliberate. The object of campaigning for criminal sanctions for unregistered and registered design infringement is intended to act as a real deterrent against deliberate copying and to promote the positive value of IP so that the UK’s 350,000 designers, the majority of them micro and SME’s can innovate through good design to provide job certainty without facing the challenges of copying. Introducing criminal sanctions is intended to bring design right into parity with copyright. After all, what is the difference between a lighting or furniture designer relying on design right and an artist relying on copyright? ACID’s experiences of 100’s of settlements in terms of the cost and time involved in taking legal action and the scale of opponents, many well known names, has proved a real challenge for those who are infringed. Design needs to be recognised as a positive force for the UK, free from the challenges of indiscriminate copying. Professor Hargreaves said that design policy had been largely ignored for too long. Now Government is trying to put this right with many positive improvements. The Intellectual Property Office, for example, are providing a low cost Designs Opinions Service (non-binding) which will help clarify the strength of cases – ACID has provided such a service to members for 16 years and this has proved a benefit and reality check. Prevention and deterrence is the name of the game, not litigation!

  • penny berry November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    about time !!! =/

  • Lynette Pitzolu November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    When you say they “are set too change” does anyone know if it’s imminent or something that won’t happen in our lifetime? It’s been along time coming!

  • ajaeree nelson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    what if you redesign some part of the building

  • Mark McCormack November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
  • Nicole26Palmer November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This is cool that we are able to receive the loans moreover, that opens up new opportunities.

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