Intellectual Property – Government Responds To Hargreaves Review

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    Are designers supported? Not if it means UK unregistered design rights protection is reduced from 10 to 3 years!

    The Government today announced plans to support economic growth by modernising UK intellectual property laws. Accepting the recommendations made in the independent Hargreaves Review which estimate a potential benefit to the UK economy of up to £7.9 billion, Chancellor George Osborne said, “Our future depends on exploiting knowledge and ideas to their full potential and the Government is committed to build upon this country’s great strength in intellectual property, ultimately, success will come down to the creativity of UK people and innovation by businesses, not Government action”. This is true. Anti Copying in Design (ACID) welcomes the Government’s commitment, “To try to create the best conditions to encourage innovation and growth”. However, according to ACID’s CEO Dids Macdonald, “On the one hand Government is saying how important design is to the UK economy (£23 billion invested in 2009) and on the other hand design support could be diluted. I am extremely concerned that the Government wants further research on whether to eliminate national unregistered design rights and bring UK unregistered rights in line with EU. This would mean for 99% of the UK’s 232,000 designers who do not register their rights (only 2111 designs were registered last year), they would have their protection cut from 10 to 3 years. This doesn’t seem to make fair sense when comparisons are made with a songwriter or artist who will get copyright protection for their lifetime plus 70 years after their death. European designers also benefit from unfair competition law which kicks in and runs alongside the rights so once the 3 year period is over, there is still something that can be done. In the UK designers can only rely on passing off which is difficult to pursue and costly, particularly for small businesses.

    ACID is encouraged to hear that a fast track IP small claims Court may become a reality, subject to impact assessment, and will seek every opportunity to engage with the UKIPO and Ministers to ensure that this happens. This will go a long way in providing easier access for small IP claims and we hope this will provide a much needed deterrent to those who prey on small businesses. Key to its success would be the right IP training for District Judges.

    ACID also welcomes the publication of an updated IP Crime Strategy and hopes that the promised action plan to deal with the increased threat from IP crime online will become a reality. This will enable the UK to robustly and proactively protect its IP interests internationally. Micro firms and SMEs need and should demand a sound IP framework where infringement can be satisfactorily and effectively enforced. Confidence will be lost if the constant threat of infringement means that IP creators cannot be sure of ROI. If innovators are disincentivised this will result in less consumer choice, fewer jobs, and less economic opportunity in the future.

    ACID actively supports any moves to improve and enable licensing opportunities, which could be facilitated by the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange. Before this happens, however, we believe that there is a necessity to clarify competition issues – with full industry consultation – before a framework for discussions is set in place. Adequate security standards must also be put in place to ensure accuracy, so that a DCE would not become a vehicle for misuse by those who may be able to register the rights of others. ACID will be pleased to support the IPO in developing these plans and the viability of designs inclusion in a DCE.

    Despite the fact that Government has finally recognized design’s importance to the UK economy, ACID is disappointed to note that there is still no recommendation to have parity of IP rights. ACID has presented an arguable case to bring unregistered design right in line with copyright. Current UKIPO policy is that most design infringement may be inadvertent but, to date, have provided little or no evidence to support this view. ACID’s own research indicates the opposite: 89.7% of companies believe design infringement is blatant and deliberate.

    Whilst we are frustrated with the continuing obsession with “further research” rather than real action, ACID will continue to enter into positive debate with the UKIPO to present further arguments supporting their objective for parity of unregistered rights.

    Daniel Fountain / 06.08.2011

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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