Design rights—what next?

Design rights—what next?

What’s on the horizon for the protection of design rights? John Coldham, director, and Alice Stagg, senior associate, in the intellectual property team at Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co LLP, consider the impact of the introduction of the Intellectual Property Act 2014 (IPA 2014) and the UK joining the Hague system.

Has the Intellectual Property Act 2014 significantly improved protection for designers or is it too early to say?

A number of measures introduced by IPA 2014 should improve protection for designers.

First, IPA 2014 creates criminal liability for infringement of registered designs in certain circumstances. This is intended to deter infringers from deliberate and close copying of registered designs.

Secondly, IPA 2014 introduces a new designs opinion service, to be operated by the UK Intellectual Property Office. This is likely to help designers if they are considering taking legal action to enforce their rights. They will be able to obtain an opinion as to the strength of their case and how likely it is they will win if they do proceed to litigation, for a proposed fee of £200.

IPA 2014 also introduces changes to the rules as to when a designer’s work is protected by UK unregistered design right, and who owns the unregistered design right on creation. The changes to the rules on ownership are in some ways beneficial to individual designers—if they are freelancing and they have not agreed contrary written terms, then they will now own the design rights in the work they produce, rather than the company which has commissioned them. For the companies that employ freelance designers, it is now even more important to obtain written assignments of all of the IP in the work that the designers have created.

On the other hand, where a designer is a non-EU national and is engaged by a non-EU based company, there is now more limited protection available. The

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