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    New Designs Opinions Service

    New service to help companies avoid ‘costly legal disputes’ over design rights has been launched today.

    Intellectual property minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe (pictured) unveiled proposals for a new Designs Opinions Service, run by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and aimed at small and medium-sized businesses who become involved in IP disputes.

    Subject to a consultation, the scheme is expected to be similar to the Patent Opinion Service launched in 2005, which involves both parties in a dispute being allowed to have their say before an expert opinion is expressed.

    Baroness Neville-Rolfe told a conference of trademark attorneys: ‘This service will give businesses more options on how to decide what to do prior to undertaking often costly legal proceedings.

    ‘With limited time and money they can often find it hard to make an informed decision on whether to enforce or protect their intellectual property and this new service will be a welcome aid.’

    An opinion on a design dispute from the IPO would be non-binding, but could assist in resolving a dispute before it escalates into full litigation before the courts. Where litigation is unavoidable, the hope is that an opinion will help parties to focus their cases and save time and money.

    The IPO would aim to offer opinions on issues such as whether a design infringes the rights in someone else’s design, and whether rights exist in a particular design.

    It intends to publish a summary of responses to the consultation within three months of the closing date of 19 May, and lay the rules in parliament in time for commencement in October.

    Law Society’s Gazette: 20.03.14