Proposals to criminalise design copying go forward despite protests

Government proposals to criminalise design copying are going forward despite concerns that people could be inadvertently caught out by the offense.

Prison bars

Source: Mike Cogh

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!’

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  • Darren Coles November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I agree that copying IP is wrong and individuals / businesses that partake in the act should be hit hard where it stings, but I too see that a huge amount of others may get caught in the same net.

    Get a good system in place and I’ll support it. Put a crap system in place and I’ll fight for the innocent and my own right to design.

    Darren Coles

  • Maxine Horn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    It’s a good and not so good result.

    The David & Goliath syndrome that demonstrates the inequality of damaging the income or even closing down off a small business due to a large business, even non UK global or mutinational business, copying of their original design, mass produced and sold cheaper by economy of scale but with low quality materials and inferior features [potential mis-representation] – is not a good result.

    For sure imprisonment would be a poor result and an undesired one, so best large brands and retailers stop stealing and start dealing honestly with designers.

    Fair comparison would be to say any property of house, car, phone etc was OK and selling it on at a cheaper price than the honest product was OK …..

    In a digital age theft is worse – curtail it and change the free use message by considering a digital protection system such as and others

    Don’t rely on the Ethics Police they don’t exist

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