Brand new measures to enhance the protection of intangible assets are pleasing to the eye for product stylists
Steps to introduce criminal penalties for design infringement have been included in the UK government’s 2013 Intellectual Property (IP) Bill, announced on Friday 10 May. If passed, the Bill would ensure that, as well as risking civil lawsuits, infringers of registered designs will face criminal records that could affect their ability to trade in the UK, or to design products for third parties.
Lord Younger, who has tabled the Bill, said: ‘This will be a deterrent to those who deliberately copy UK registered designs, and provide greater protection for our hugely important design sector.’
The economic value of the UK’s design sector was underlined by business secretary Vince Cable, who said: ‘Figures show that UK companies invest nearly £16 billion in design each year, which represents 1.1% of GDP. The changes in this Bill are to help small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and innovative businesses get on and grow.’
As NewLegal Review reported last year, a survey conducted by the UK Design Council, in partnership with Mountainview Learning and law firm Speechly Bircham, revealed that 57% of companies generated most of their annual sales through design innovations.
Dids Macdonald – chief executive of Anti Copying in Design (A©ID) and vice chair of the Alliance for Intellectual Property – said: ‘It’s great that the government has taken a positive first step to protect designers against design copying with a proposal to introduce criminal sanctions for deliberate registered design infringement. This will encourage more designers to register their designs. However, we hope that in the future this [protection] will also apply to those who rely on unregistered rights, which comprise the majority of designers in this country.’
Younger’s Bill also contains proposals for a designs opinion service and an expanded patents opinions service. Those initiatives would enable patent owners or design rights holders – or any interested party – to ask the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) for expert views on whether specific designs or patents are valid or being infringed. This will help businesses assess the strength of their cases before embarking upon more formal and costly legal proceedings, and may even help them avoid litigation altogether.
In addition to its design-related measures, the Bill also lays the groundwork for the forthcoming single EU patent, also known as the unitary patent – a new type of regional IP protection that has had a troubled route to approval. Under the Bill’s text, the Coalition government would be empowered to implement London’s chapter of the EU agreement towards a Unitary Patent Court (UPC).
As international law firm DLA Piper explains: ‘The UPC will be made up of a Court of First Instance, an Appeal Court and a Registry. The Court of First Instance will consist of a central division (with a seat in Paris and one in each of London and Munich) and several local and regional divisions in the contracting member states. The Court of Appeal will be situated in Luxembourg. The IP Bill will include arrangements for the establishment of the UK division of the UPC.’
According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), fees collected by the London branch of the UPC – which is set to adjudicate on pharmaceutical and life-sciences disputes – will benefit the economy by around £200 million per year.