As Design Week readers will know, the Government is making several changes to design law through the Intellectual Property Act, which received Royal Assent on 14 May. At the Intellectual Property Office, we want to make sure designers across the country know what the Act means for them and have put together a top ten to help you plan for the future.
1. It will soon be a criminal offence to intentionally copy a registered design. The criminal offence is limited to the deliberate and blatant copying of a registered design – you can continue to seek inspiration from others’ designs. But if someone deliberately takes and commercialises the design of another they could a face fine and a prison sentence of up to ten years.
2. There will be a new Design Opinions Service. The IPO will launch a new Opinions Service to give designers low-cost, non-binding and impartial opinions on whether a design right is valid or infringing someone else’s design. The scheme will give designers more information to help them decide whether or not to pursue more formal, and potentially costly, action in the courts.
3. The law is changing for all design rights to make the default owner of a design the person who designs it, rather than the individual or business who commissions it. However, if a contract is in place stating who the design belongs to then they will continue to ‘own’ the design.
4. Unregistered designs can be used for teaching purposes or private use without seeking permission of the rights holder. These exceptions mirror those that exist for registered designs. They apply only to certain restricted non-commercial uses of the design right in question.
5. Several small, simplifying changes are being made to the scope of unregistered design rights. The amendments include the scope of what can be protected and who is able to claim protection from the unregistered design right.
6. The UK is joining the Hague agreement – an international design registration system – to give designers more flexibility registering designs outside the EU. The UK is already part of the Hague agreement as an EU member. Joining separately will allow applicants to choose to protect their designs in different countries individually. This will significantly reduce the fees incurred.
7. You will be able to view design registration documents online. This will make it much easier to see if all, or part, of a design has been registered with the IPO, saving you from having to request paper copies or view them in person.
8. You need to know your design rights. Design law is complex and not all of the changes apply to every right. As you are thinking through what the IP Act means for you, make sure you know the difference between the rights, and where and for how long they are valid.
9. The changes in the IP Act will come in gradually over the next two years. The majority of changes will come into force in October 2014, but some, such as the new Opinions Service and viewing documents online, will take a little longer. You can keep up to date on the commencement dates on the IPO website.
10. The IPO has more information for you. There is plenty of information on the IPO website: www.ipo.gov.uk, including listings of events and further resources. For complex issues, it is recommended that you seek legal advice.
Sean Dennehey is the Deputy Chief Executive of the IPO. If you have any questions about the IP Act, please contact the IPO team on IPBillEnquiries@ipo.gov.uk.