The Intellectual Property Act 2014 and design protection

The Intellectual Property Act 2014 received Royal Assent on 14 May 2014. The bill is designed to modernise various aspects of the law in relation to intellectual property, details of some of the changes relating to design protection are provided below.

Infringement of a registered design can now be a criminal offence

As a result of the implementation of the bill infringement of a register design, in certain circumstances, is now a criminal offence.  Such an offence is committed where a person intentionally copies a registered design to make a product exactly to the design, or a product that only differs in immaterial details, the person knew the design was registered, and such copying is carried out without the permission of the registered proprietor of the design.

A Designs Opinion Service is to be provided by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). Opinions provided by the UK IPO will be non-binding, but are intended to enable disputes relating to infringement to be more readily settled without the need for costly litigation.

Certain acts are exempt

Certain acts are exempted as not being an infringement of an unregistered design, e.g. experimentation, teaching, and acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes.

The new act implements a provision whereby a third person, acting in good faith, who is using a design that is subsequently registered by someone else, may continue to use said design; provided that the third party has made serious and effective preparation to use the design.

The designer, not the commissioner, owns the design

The act also brings the rules regarding ownership of UK designs into line with the corresponding rules of the EU, i.e. it is the designer, and not the commissioner, who will be the owner of a new design. A commissioner of a design should therefore ensure that a contract is in place to transfer the rights to the design to themselves before the relevant work is started.

It will not be possible for a person who uses a registered Community design in the UK, with the permission of the design owner, to be subsequently sued for infringement of the associated copyright.

Contact an advisor today

If you would like further advice on design rights or any other type of intellectual property, contact us and an advisor will get back to you.

Andrew Teasdale


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