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Changes to Design Law

Issued: October 31 2014

Significant changes to UK design law have come into effect on October 1, 2014. The changes arise from the Intellectual Property Act 2014 with the general aim of simplifying this area of law.


Although further changes will not be launched until the beginning of 2015, practitioners are hopeful the law will change the design protection situation in the UK.


Some designers welcome the reform, saying they could encourage more investment of time and talent in British design, leading to more jobs would being created to help make UK a profitable workshop again.


Before the introduction of the new law, design law was often considered messy, complex and confusing, according to Pamela Bryer, partner and patent attorney at Marks & Clerk in Birmingham. “Small businesses, who don’t have the time or resources to disentangle it, can lose out. The IP Act will introduce a number of new measures and make some changes to the law in order to make design law simpler, clearer and more robust,” she says.


Manchester-based Marks & Clerk partner and patent attorney Mike Shaw tells Asia IP that the biggest change made by the IP Act to design law is the criminalization of deliberate copying of a registered design. “Other forms of IP protection in the UK have such criminal repercussions, but infringers of registered designs have previously been able to avoid any criminal sanctions for design infringement. The new provisions brought in by the IP Act will go some way to bringing design law into line with UK patent and trademark law, thereby providing some welcome additional sanctions that design owners may consider when taking action against deliberate infringers,” he says.


Shaw says that holders of registered designs will certainly benefit from the changes made to UK design law as a result of deliberate registered design infringement. However, he says, “the new provisions relating to prior use should also prove to be of considerable benefit to those businesses who have in good faith commenced use of a design that is subsequently registered by a third party, enabling those businesses to continue to use the design without fear of facing infringement proceedings at a later date.”


He adds that the current UK design law is somewhat complex, in that part of the law is based on an EU directive seeking to harmonize design law across the EU, but part is based on old UK law that does not have any EU origin. Insofar as other IP sectors are concerned, there is already greater consistency between UK law and EU law, particularly in the field of trademarks; the biggest changes to come in the near future are in relation to the unitary patent, a single patent providing uniform protection with equal effect in all participating countries, he adds.



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