Design copying a crime in the United Kingdom – Changes to be brought about by UK Intellectual Property Bill

In June last year we posted an article on the UK Intellectual Property Bill 2013 (http://maclachlan.ie/uk-intellectual-property-bill-2013).  On 2nd April 2014 the House of Lords agreed the amendments made to the Bill in the House of Commons and the Bill now only requires the Royal Assent to become law.  This post comments on changes to design law.

The most talked about change is that of the sanctions available for infringement of design right.  In line with copyright infringement, it will be a crime in the UK to deliberately copy a registered UK design or Registered Community Design.  This is likely to deter people from making knock offs and enabling designers to more effectively protect their designs.

Other changes include:

–       A change in the default owner of a UK design.  This will be the designer, not the commissioner, bringing the law in line with EU law.  If you are an employee, your employer will own the rights to your design if it produced as part of your job and under the terms of your employment contract.

–       A clarification of scope.  The scope of unregistered design right will exclude the language “any aspect of” and will cover “the shape or configuration (whether external or internal) of the whole or part of an article”, rather than any aspect of the shape.

–       Private use of unregistered designs and use for experimental purposes by third parties will be permitted.  However, commercial use of unregistered designs will still require the permission of the design right holder.

–       The UK will join the Hague system, an international system whereby a single international application allows for the designation of some or all the contracting parties streamlining design application procedures for applicants wishing to obtain design protection in a wide number of countries around the world.  Design owners already have the opportunity of obtaining design protection in the UK using the Hague system by way of a designation for a Community design, but in future, they will be able to designate the UK independently of the Community registered design.

–       Design documents will be published online so that they can be reviewed more easily.

Isabel Meenan (Ansons)

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