The UK Intellectual Property Office (the IPO) is consulting on proposals to reduce the cost of registering designs. It is therefore timely to reflect that the criminal offence of unauthorised copying of a design which was introduced by the Intellectual Property Act 2014 relates only to UK registered designs or registered Community designs, and not to any unregistered design.

Although the current cost of securing registered design protection is relatively inexpensive, the IPO is proposing further reductions in the official fees paid to secure and maintain UK registered designs, and is proposing to make it substantially cheaper to secure protection for a number of designs in a single application. This has a number of benefits. Not only does it become viable to protect all variations of designs used for a product, but it becomes a cost effective proposition to protect a number of different designs (even for different products) within the same application. It is also proposed there should be a significant reduction in the official fees for the four renewal periods covering the 25 year life of the registered design.

Recent figures published by the Design Council show that in 2013 the design economy generated £71.7bn in gross value added, while design industry turnover increased by 19.7% between 2009 and 2013 and design-influenced exports grew by 51.4%. According to the Design Council the productivity of businesses that invest in design and use it strategically is higher than average for their sector. Registered design rights give businesses exclusive statutory rights to their design, thereby protecting investment in new products and innovation.

This protection significantly increased when the Intellectual Property Act 2014 made it a criminal offence to deliberately copy a UK or Community (EU) registered design. This effectively gives registered designs the same level of protection against counterfeiters as already exists for copyright and trade marks in the UK. It is also an offence knowingly to use such an intentionally copied design in the course of business to profit from that copying. Access to the new criminal offence of deliberately copying a design only applies to UK registered designs and registered Community designs, and does not apply to unregistered design rights. It has also become a criminal offence to knowingly use an intentionally copied design in the course of business to profit from that copying. This includes using, marketing, exporting, importing or stocking the design in the course of business.

It is therefore important to consider seeking this valuable statutory protection for new products or for new product developments, because access to protection against the criminal offence of deliberately copying a design is only applicable to registered designs.

If you wish to discuss any of the issues raised above, please contact Eric Ramage – Of Councel, or any member of the Edwin Coe Intellectual Property team.

For many years, Eric was the member responsible for the Design and Copyright Examinations offered by the former Joint Examination Board for entry on to the register of Patent Attorneys or the register of Trade Mark Attorneys.

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

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