Government proposes tighter protection for designers

Monday 20 July 2015

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has outlined new proposals that would offer designers greater protection from copyright infringement of their registered products, as part of a streamlining of present regulations.

Under the current rules, it is not compulsory to include a design number on a registered product, but it means that anyone who infringes the design cannot use a defence of ignorance when facing a legal challenge, as it has been made clear that the design is registered. This makes it more likely that the designer will receive any damages to which they are entitled.

For this reason, marking products with a design number is generally considered a useful step when it comes to safeguarding intellectual property (IP) rights. Ministers are also considering the possibility of creating a web mark system that would allow designers to simply include a hyperlink on their product instead of stamping it with the relevant numbers.

The website would contain full details of the relevant intellectual property rights, which would be updated as necessary. If the proposals became law, designers would still have the option of stamping or labelling a product with its design number if they preferred.

The latest government proposals are an extension of provisions made in the Intellectual Property Act 2014, which allowed a similar system of web marking for patented designs, instead of including its patent number. If met with approval, it is possible that the new rules could be passed as part of the upcoming Enterprise Bill, which will be debated in Parliament before the end of the year.

The US has already introduced a website-based alternative for registered products, and this appears to be the model for the suggested changes in the UK.

It is hoped that the proposals will streamline and simplify the current system for making copyright infringement claims, as making a false claim that a product is registered can still result in a fine. The proposals are also designed to make it easy to continue to produce items that have multiple IP rights attached to them, which can be an expensive and lengthy process under present regulations.

It is also more straightforward to maintain a product’s legal protection when IP rights change, as the cost of updating the marking process for design numbers that have lapsed or have been revoked can be a prohibitive expense.

This is likely to be of particular benefit for self-employed designers, who depend on the continued revenue stream created by their ideas, and provide increased options for those who produce freelance commissions.

The plans were unveiled by intellectual property minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe during a visit to Dyson headquarters. She said: “Strong IP systems allow innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship to thrive.

“We are confident that virtual marking for registered designs will be very warmly welcomed by UK companies for whom design is key to their success.”

Her words were welcomed by Sir James Dyson, founder and chief engineer of Dyson, who said: “Virtual marking will propel intellectual property into the digital age. Next, we need to uphold a culture where inventors resolutely protect their ideas and where the ideas of others are firmly respected.”
The proposals are currently subject to a public call for evidence launched on July 16th, which will accept submissions until August 10th.


By Victoria McDonnell

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