Intellectual Property Act 2014 Modernises Design Law

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On 14 May 2014, the UK Government introduced the new Intellectual Property Act 2014, which comes into effect on the 1 October 2014. The Act introduces a number of changes to the existing design and patent laws following the Hargreaves Independent review of Intellectual Property and growth.

Owning Design Rights

Employers will continue to own rights in designs created by their employees but the most notable changes arise if you are self employed or an independent designer as they will now own the rights to designs even if someone else has commissioned you to make the design. If your business often commissions third parties in this way it is important to make sure that you seek appropriate advice before entering into any contracts ensuring that your business is the ultimate owner of the design rights.

Registered Designs

If someone else registers your design before you do, the law now provides some limited protection against infringement action. If you have been using your design in good faith but discover that someone else has already registered the same design then you are able to carry on using the design as long as its usage remains the same or serious and effective preparations to use it have been made.

Criminal Sanctions

If you do not have the consent of the original owner of the design to use it, then its use could result in you facing criminal sanctions. Under the new Act it will become a criminal offence to intentionally copy a design or if there is reason to believe that the design may have already been registered. The offence will carry a fine and/or a prison sentence of up to ten years; similar penalties already exist for copyright and trademark offences. These sanctions will only apply in the UK, if you feel you have been infringed outside the UK then you would need to use the country’s legal system.

Future changes being implemented include:

  • The Act will make simpler and strengthen design protection in the UK design sector;
  • It is aimed to make the Intellectual Property system clearer and more accessible to smaller businesses;
  • The Act will give someone with a registered design the same level of protection as those with trade marks and copyright offences;
  • The definition of unregistered designs has removed references to ‘any aspect’. It will mean that only a whole design or part of it can still be protected. You will not be able to base your claim against someone else if ‘a part of a part’ of a design has been used;
  • The UK is able to join the Hague system which will enable UK designers to simply register their designs in the UK and abroad in one application;
  • Changes to the procedures for appealing against the IPO’s decisions will fall into line with those already in place for trade marks;
  • It will bring in measures to help businesses judge the strength of their Intellectual Property case before embarking on expensive procedures. It will enable designers to receive an opinion on whether your design is similar to another and if it may infringe upon it.

The changes being implemented bring designs into line with most other forms of intellectual property. For advice and assistance with protection or exploitation of your designs or other forms of intellectual property contact the Forbes Solicitors Business Law department by telephone on 0800 037 4628 or via our Contact Form.

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