Copyright in designs

The following IP practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Copyright in designs
  • Relevant legislation and key cases
  • No concurrent claim for copyright and design right infringement
  • Copyright protection for articles made to design documents
  • Position under CDPA 1988, s 51
  • Practical application of CDPA 1988, s 51—artistic works (2D to 3D)
  • Copyright protection for surface decoration
  • Repeal of CDPA 1988 section 52
  • Section 52
  • Leading up to the repeal of s 52
  • More...

Copyright in designs

This Practice Note examines the complex relationship between copyright and designs. For more information about designs law and copyright law, see: Design transactions and management—overview and Copyright & associated rights—overview.

Prior to the implementation of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988), copyright was the principal means of protecting rights in industrial articles. One of the intentions behind CDPA 1988 was to limit the application of copyright to industrially commercialised designs and introduce an unregistered design right in the UK (often referred to as 'design right'). For a visual summary of the role of CDPA 1988 copyright provisions, see: Application of copyright law to designs—flowchart below.

Authors of artistic works that are applied industrially may not be able to rely on copyright but instead may rely upon design right or registered design(s). However, copyright remains a means of protecting:

  1. original design drawings

  2. rights in designs of three-dimensional objects that are considered artistic works under CDPA 1988

  3. surface decoration applied to industrial articles

Relevant legislation and key cases

  1. CDPA 1988 (as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA 2013))

  2. the Registered Designs Act 1949

  3. the Registered Designs Regulations 2001, SI 2001/3949 (which implemented Directive 98/71/EC)

  4. Lambretta Clothing v Teddy Smith

  5. Dyson v Qualtex

  6. Lucasfilm v Ainsworth

  7. Cofemel

This Practice Note contains references to Cofemel and other case law of the Court of

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