The Intellectual Property Bill, which is to be debated at Committee Stage in the House of Commons this week, would see deliberate copying of registered designs become a criminal offence.
However, some UK designers are pushing for more stringent legislation, which would see infringement of unregistered design rights also become a criminal offence.
Design right provides automatic protection for some aspects of designs, but registered design protection must be purchased from the Intellectual Property Office, with initial applications costing £60 each.
In a letter published in The Times today, designer Sebastian Conran says, ‘Theft is criminal whether it is designs or the goods made from them, and we should not have to register or pay to establish ownership.’
He adds, ‘Designers who have experienced blatant infringement urge the Government not to fall at the final hurdle and listen to those at grass roots and include criminal provisions for deliberate unregistered design infringement, as well as registered design infringement in line with copyright and trademarks.’
The issue of design rights was debated in Parliament during the Bill’s second reading last week.
Bob Stewart, Conservative MP for Beckenham, said, ‘I have listened carefully to the arguments about unregistered designs, and I wonder how this matter can be policed.
‘How will that be possible when no-one has actually said, “This is my design” and someone has agreed with them? That is really worrying.’
In response, Pete Wishart, SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, says, ‘Anti-Copying in Design has built up a database of unregistered designs, and tens of thousands of people have registered with it.
‘If that can be achieved by a small organisation such as ACID, which runs so efficiently and effectively with Dids Macdonald and her very small staff, surely the UK Government can do likewise.’