The IP Federation, whose members include Dyson, Nokia and Microsoft, was among those who criticised the measure in the Intellectual Property Bill, saying it could lead to designers inadvertently facing imprisonment.
And Roger Burt, president of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, said in a letter to The Times that the bill ‘could result in people being charged with criminal offenses and locked up for up to ten years, just for producing a design that looks “substantially” like an existing design.’
He added, ‘It could affect hundreds of retailers and designers who are certainly not deliberate criminals.’
The Bill has now been passed by the House of Lords, which amended some of its wording in order, it says, ‘to mean that the offence will not capture a person or business who has reason to believe they were not infringing a design’.
The Bill will now be passed to the House of Commons for further possible amendments, before being passed.
Sebastian Conran, an ambassador for Anti-Copying in Design, which has applauded the Bill, says, ‘As someone who has been involved in design for all my life I have seen my fair share of copying, but there is little disincentive to taking the fast-track to market through infringements.
‘Small companies simply cannot afford the cost and time to go through an expensive legal process where it would seem that the only winners are the legal profession.’
He adds, ‘We view criminal provisions as a strong and ultimate sanction against deliberate copying to mirror what happens in the film industry or music industry.’
Referring to concerns about inadvertently breaching the design copying law, Dids Macdonald, chief executive of ACID, said, ‘To have a successful design prosecution would require evidence beyond all reasonable doubt and have to be in the public’s best interests. Fairly tough tests in most people’s views!’