UK Intellectual Property Act receives Royal Assent – what does this mean for designs?

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On the 14th of May the UK Intellectual Property Act received Royal Assent. The Act aims to benefit and support business and economic growth in the UK by enabling designers to better protect their intellectual property (IP) rights domestically and internationally. The new Act focuses on design rights and patents, implementing reforms which stemmed from the Hargreaves review of Intellectual Property and Growth in 2011. The Act will start coming into force from 1st of October 2014.

The Act aims to modify and simplify the IP protection system by bringing in measures to increase efficiency and accessibility. The Act includes the following measures:

  • Simplifying and strengthening design protection and in many respects bringing design law into line with copyright and trade mark law to encourage investment in the design sector.
  • Criminalising unregistered design infringement (some specified acts will not however amount to infringement, for example in teaching).
  • Introducing criminal sanctions for intentional copying of a registered design, strengthening designers ability to enforce their rights.
  • Amending the definition of unregistered design right to reduce uncertainty as to what is and isn't capable of protection as an unregistered design. 
  • Limiting the ability to protect trivial features of designs.
  • Introducing a good faith exception to infringement which allows third-parties who have acted in good faith to continue use of a registered design which is owned by another.
  • Changing default proprietorship in both unregistered designs and registered designs to the designer as oppose to a third-party who may have commissioned the work. Thus the commissioner of such design work must ensure that such rights are assigned to them in the contract of commission otherwise future use or amendment of the design could be severely impeded.
  • The Act removes the requirement for the applicant of a registered design to be the proprietor of that design.
  • Recognition of proprietorship has been expanded to include any person (where viable) economically active in the European Union.
  • The Act harmonises financial liability.
  • A person who is granted permission to use a Registered Community Cesign cannot be sued for copyright infringement in relation to those designs.
  • Give effect to the Hague International Design Registration System enabling designers to register their design in several jurisdictions using one application (this is a similar to the Madrid Protocol for international trade mark registration).
  • The Act creates a simplified appeal process whereby appeals against an Intellectual Property Office (IPO) decision can be brought via an appointed person as oppose to via the courts.
  • The Act creates the Design Opinion Service. This is a service providing advice on validity and infringement issues in relation to registered designs which aims to resolve disputes without resorting to litigation. This service in run by the IPO.
  • If your business involves a form of design for example fashion and jewellery design or product design, these changes will affect you. The IPO has created guidance on the new Act which is available on their website (see link below).

If you have any queries or would like to find out more about unregistered designs, registered design rights or the new Act, please contact Blake Morgan's Intellectual Property team.

Click here to view the Intellectual Property Act 2014.