Gifts Today magazine

10 years’ jail threat for copying

From 1st October design infringement is a criminal offence thanks to ACID

A NEW law came into force on October 1st making it a criminal offence to intentionally infringe a registered design – and a company’s individual board directors will also be held accountable.

A 10-year jail term is the maximum sentence for anyone found guilty under the new Intellectual Property Act, which follows a concerted and lengthy campaign by trade association Anti Copying In Design.

The changes are intended to reduce the scale of registered design infringement, increase protection for holders of registered designs, and better punish the perpetrators of blatant infringement.

Intentionally infringing a registered design and producing a copy that differs from an original in only immaterial respects now becomes a criminal offence which ACID state is a significant development for designers.

For the time being the law will only assist those designers who have registered their designs at either the Intellectual Property Office in England or at the Community Design Office in Alicante as it does not cover unregistered designs.

Nick Kounoupias, ACID’s chief legal counsel and a partner at DMH Stallard, said: “This is the result of a genuine grass roots campaign and shows what can be done with a well-presented case argued with integrity and honesty.

“To get fundamental legislation of this kind, in which copying of designs is made a criminal offence, from lobbying to law in less than 12 months is nothing short of phenomenal.

“Criminal sanctions for registered design infringement should be seen as evolution not revolution and the proposed changes are sensible and pragmatic. However, we believe that Government should listen again to the powerful arguments for including unregistered designs.”

ACID chief executive Dids Macdonald added: “I welcome the fact that the IP Bill is a significant step in the right direction. However, there is still much work to be done because the majority of UK designers rely on unregistered rights.

“Way back in 1996 when ACID was just a round-table action group, I gave a talk along with design law specialist and ACID co-founder Simon Clark saying we needed design issues to be heard and acknowledged within Government and a change of law to bring design in line with copyright – little did I think it would take 18 years to happen!

“The next step is to persuade Government to include unregistered designs, exemplary damages and unfair competition at the moment our EU designer counterparts can turn to unfair competition laws if IP laws fail them.”

Rodney McMahon, MD of ACID member Morgan Contract Furniture, said, “Strengthening of IP law can not only serve as a strong deterrent to copying, but also act as a real vehicle for growth, innovation and job certainty for those who create design originality.”

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