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Government to reform Intellectual Property laws

The Government has announced plans to support economic growth by modernising UK intellectual property laws, however there are concerns that it doesn’t go far enough to protect designers.

The Government has accepted the recommendations made in the independent Hargreaves Review, a report that was tasked with examining how the UK's intellectual property framework can further promote entrepreneurialism, economic growth and social and commercial innovation.

The report findings estimate a potential benefit to the UK economy of up to £7.9 billion. Chancellor George Osborne said: "Our future depends on exploiting knowledge and ideas to their full potential and the Government is committed to build upon this country's great strength in intellectual property, ultimately, success will come down to the creativity of UK people and innovation by businesses, not Government action".

Anti Copying in Design (ACID) welcomes the Government's commitment, "To try to create the best conditions to encourage innovation and growth".
However, according to ACID's CEO Dids Macdonald, "On the one hand Government is saying how important design is to the UK economy (£23 billion invested in 2009) and on the other hand design support could be diluted.

“I am extremely concerned that the Government wants further research on whether to eliminate national unregistered design rights and bring UK unregistered rights in line with EU. This would mean for 99% of the UK's 232,000 designers who do not register their rights (only 2111 designs were registered last year), they would have their protection cut from 10 to 3 years.

“This doesn't seem to make fair sense when comparisons are made with a songwriter or artist who will get copyright protection for their lifetime plus 70 years after their death. European designers also benefit from unfair competition law which kicks in and runs alongside the rights so once the 3 year period is over, there is still something that can be done. In the UK designers can only rely on passing off which is difficult to pursue and costly, particularly for small businesses.”
Other outcomes from the Hargreaves Report include establishing a fast track IP small claims Court, Updating the IP Crime Strategy and deal with online IP crime online, plus moves to improve and enable licensing opportunities, which could be facilitated by the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE).

Despite the fact that Government has recognised design's importance to the UK economy, ACID said it is disappointed that there is still no recommendation to have equality of IP rights. ACID has presented an arguable case to bring unregistered design right in line with copyright.

Current UKIPO policy is that most design infringement may be inadvertent but, to date, have provided little or no evidence to support this view. ACID's own research indicates the opposite: 89.7% of companies believe design infringement is blatant and deliberate.
Dids added: “While we are frustrated with the continuing obsession with ‘further research’ rather than real action, ACID will continue to enter into positive debate with the UKIPO to present further arguments supporting their objective for parity of unregistered rights.”

To see the Hargreaves report go to

About ACID and design protection:

Anti Copying in Design, ACID, are members of the Alliance Against IP Theft. Established in 1998, the Alliance Against IP Theft is a UK-based coalition of trade associations and enforcement organisations with an interest in ensuring intellectual property rights receive the protection they need and deserve.

With a combined turnover of over £250 billion, members include representatives of the audiovisual, music, games and business software, and sports industries, branded manufactured goods, publishers, retailers and designers.

ACID members, if relying on unregistered UK or EU design right, have free use of a Design Data Bank.  Currently this holds approximately 300,000 copies of designs.

For design-led businesses who wish to protect their intellectual property, registration of new designs provides a monopoly right. If registered in Europe, this extends to 27 members states for a period of 25 years  

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