We’ve gathered together some tips from trade bodies and legal professionals on how to protect your designs and intellectual property.
• Ask for advice. Membership body Anti-Copying in Design works to combat design theft, and offers services including legal advice and IP trackers. The Design Business Association – also a membership group – holds case studies and examples of contracts. The Innovation Bank, which is operated in partnership with Creative Barcode offers a forum for IP holders to trade IP, while the Intellectual Property Office is the official Government body for granting IP rights in the UK, and offers online information and patent service searches. In addition, Calvert Solicitors says, ‘Designers should not be frightened of approaching lawyers and seeing legal advice. It is not expensive, can safeguard against major or unexpected consequences and can help maximise earning potential from their work.’
• Copyright your work. Using the © symbol or simply writing ‘copyright’ along with the name of the copyright owner and year of publication on the work will, says Calvert, draw attention to the fact that the author asserts owner of this copyright. ACID chief executive Dids Macdonald says, ‘If you don’t want your work to be copied – say so.’ She suggests writing this on your website and on work.
• Use a non-disclosure agreement or impose confidentiality by other means. This is especially useful in a pitch situation. An NDA worded with the client will, Calvert says, prevent the client from releasing details about the pitch work, or using it commercially. Although Calvert points out that many clients are unwilling to enter into NDA agreements as they don’t want to be subject to restrictions on using the designer’s work. Calvert says that by creating a relationship of confidentiality, the designer can protect themselves should the client disclose or use the work.
• Use unregistered design rights or registerable IP rights. Unregistered design rights exist independently of copyright and focus on the shape or configuration of a product, rather then documents or artistic or literary work. Registerable IP rights, which can include trademarks and patents, give the registrant a monopoly right on the work.
• Track your IP. There are several services to help you keep track of your IP and confidential information. ACID’s IP tracker is an electronic process of tracking delivery of IP-led and confidential information and costs £5 per sending (£3.50 for ACID members). ACID also operates the Design Data Bank – free for members – which holds dated evidence of the origination of designs, pitches and tenders. The Creative Barcode service, which launched in 2010, offers physical barcodes that the designer can attach to their work, which can be tracked through to commercialisation. The barcodes cost £30 for five.