Changes to design law – what you need to know

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On 1 October 2014, the Intellectual Property Act came into force, which made a number of important changes to UK design law. The law has changed in relation to both registered and unregistered designs.

Registered designs

What’s changed?

Most notably, it is now a criminal offence to intentionally (accidental or incidental copying will not be an offence) copy a UK/EU registered design. This brings the law into line with existing law relating to copyright and trade mark infringement, respectively.

How might this affect me?

Perhaps it won’t. However, if you intentionally copy a registered design, you will be committing a criminal offence and could face imprisonment (up to 10 years), a fine, or both.

Unregistered designs

What’s changed?

Previously, if you were to commission a third party to create a design on your behalf, the design would be owned by you as the commissioner. The law has now changed so that the person commissioned (i.e. the designer) will be the owner of the design.  This brings design law in line with EU and UK laws relating to other intellectual property rights.

How might this affect me?

You need to be aware that, where you commission someone to produce a design for you, they will own that design and not you. To combat this, you should ensure that a written agreement is in place with the commissioned party to assign the design rights to you.

I still have some questions…..

If you have any queries about the new law or what like to discuss design law more generally, please contact either Gill Hunter on 0191 211 7944 or Alex Craig on 0191 211 7911.