IP and Design – Reform Is On the Way

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    On the 19th December, the Government announced its first assessment of the need for reform of the design intellectual property framework. In May 2011, in his report to the Prime Minister, Professor Hargreaves concluded that design had a “very important contribution to make to growth” to the tune of £33 billion to be precise (and still a growth area!) and yet he was critical of the policy makers whose role in supporting IP in this significant branch of the economy had been neglected. So, the good news for designers is there has been a flurry of activity and ACID welcomed the opportunity to paint the picture of SME reality by providing solid evidence from a diverse set of case studies. These highlighted the often grim problems that design led companies face. This, we were told, has provided a valuable and credible foundation for future policy in this first IPO assessment. Government plans to publish a formal consultation on how to proceed in late spring 2012. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/hargreaves.htmACID’s CEO Dids Macdonald said, “I welcome this assessment for design reform. However, it is important that any further research makes clear the relationship between (registered) design rights and innovation in the context of product design. The majority of the UK’s 232,000 designers (in 55 different design disciplines) rely on unregistered (copyright, design and trade marks) and informal rights. In this initial assessment, it is clear that UKIPO has listened and understands the problems facing many SME’s within design. Now the challenge will be to address them sensibly, practically and proactively with more action and less words”.

    ACID also urges the Government to fully consider supporting the UK’s designers with the introduction of criminal sanctions for unregistered design right infringement, retaining UK unregistered rights protection and ensuring that in reforming the small claims access to justice system, they fully consider the relative effectiveness of remedies available and costs v outcome.

    Nick Kounoupias, ACID’s Chief Legal Counsel and an IP specialist at DMH Stallard said, “I am delighted to see that the possibility of introducing criminal sanctions for unregistered design right infringement is finally on the Government’s political agenda. It has been for too long anomalous that copyright and trade mark infringement can in appropriate cases be punished with a criminal sentence whilst unregistered design right infringement cannot. The harm caused to small and medium sized businesses by the flagrant and systematic copying of their designs is horrendous and to the layman in tantamount to theft. Accordingly it should be dealt with in the same way.”

    This announcement by Government is timely because in 2012 ACID will re-launch its “Commission it, Don’t Copy It” positive campaign aimed at retail buying departments which is “win win” all around. The designer is paid a commission and a royalty, The Retailer may use their purchasing power to produce the products more cost effectively and also has the opportunity to create a UK design signature range, thus, actively supporting UK Design and respect for IP in CSR. The consumer still gets an excellent deal but in the full knowledge that they are buying an original design and supporting British design. We are looking to Government to actively support our Call to Action.

    Daniel Fountain / 27.12.2011

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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