Reform of legal framework for UK designs
The government has published a summary of the responses to its consultation on proposals for reform of the legal framework for designs in the UK, which was launched following the Hargreaves review of intellectual property. The consultation set out the government’s proposals to improve the enforcement regime to promote better understanding of rights held by others and to help avoid disputes, resolve uncertainties around the scope of protection, simplify the laws relating to the ownership of and qualification for design right and improve the provision of information about design. The proposals on criminal sanctions occupied a large part of the summary. While the majority of respondents supported the introduction of sanctions, at least in relation to registered designs, questions remain about enforcement. There may be little public money in the foreseeable future to support trading standards agencies charged with carrying out enforcement measures, in which case, any criminal provisions are likely to be little used.
The Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth referred to the current complexities of the legal framework used by businesses to protect their designs, and the importance of having a proper understanding of the role of designs in the economy.
Following the Hargreaves Review, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) acknowledged that there was limited information on how important design rights were to growth, and on whether the current design intellectual property (IP) framework was meeting the needs of business. The IPO conducted economic research and issued a “call for evidence” and an associated survey to acquire this information. Responses to the “call” confirmed that the design IP framework needed to be simplified and improved in a number of areas to make it meet the needs of this business sector more fully.
In July 2012, the government published a consultation, through the IPO, setting out its proposals for improving the framework for UK design law.
Improve the enforcement regime to promote better understanding of rights held by others and to help avoid disputes.
- Resolve uncertainties around the scope of protection.
- Simplify the laws relating to the ownership of and qualification for design right.
- Improve the provision of information about design.
Enable UK designs owners to be more selective about the countries for which they seek international registration.
The consultation noted the four different, and to some extent overlapping, forms of design protection available in the UK:
UK registered designs available from the IPO for up to 25 years under the Registered Designs Act 1949 (RDA).
UK unregistered design right (UDR) under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), which offers protection against copying for up to 15 years, but with the last five years being subject to a licence of right.
Registered Community designs (RCDs) available from the Office of Harmonisation for the Internal Market also offering protection for up to 25 years under the Community Designs Regulation (6/2002/EC) (CDR).
Unregistered Community design right (UCD) which offers protection against copying for three years also under the CDR.
PLC Update 11.1.13