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.