31 January 2014


Thanks to sterling work and a 15 year campaign by ACID CEO Dids MacDonald tangible design law reform is finally on the horizon. This is great news for UK designers although Government was not swayed by MPs to include unregistered designs in Clause 13 of the IP Bill.

None-the-less it was a seismic change for UK design law that took place in the House of Commons on 20th January, 2013 when the Government, supported by the majority of MPs present, put its full weight behind Design reform and the intellectual property which underpins it. This will change the law to make the deliberate copying of a registered design a crime, and rightly so. The Bill will now go through to the Committee stage.

On the issue of unregistered designs The Minister for Universities and Sciences, The Rt. Hon David Willetts, MP., said he does not take the view that unregistered designs should be subject to a criminal sanction and used the argument that design registration provides a clear starting point for any prosecution and includes important information such as the precise scope of the protection of the design and who owns it, which would be important for any criminal prosecution.

It is on this point that ACID disagrees (as do Creative Barcode) that it is difficult to track down information about unregistered design, such as who owns it and whether it is still protected. Whether it is a registered design which can be challenged for invalidity or an unregistered design, where proof of ownership is essential, it boils down to the hard evidence of a design audit trail of ownership. Often unregistered designs can have a much more compelling evidence trail, as has been proven in the hundreds of ACID settlements to date. Neither registered nor unregistered designs are examined, which puts them on a similar footing, so why differentiate at this stage?

Maxine Horn, CEO of Creative Barcode concurs “whether a design is registered or unregistered the theft of a property remains the same crime, theft. For individual designers, micro and SME firms’ commitment to innovation and evolving designs in a fast moving, digital age can outweigh the benefits of formal design registration particularly if enforcement time and costs are unattainable”

The tracking of designs and their ownership regardless of whether they are registered designs with the UK IPO or private registries or whether unregistered designs, is set to get even easier with the imminent launch of Creative Barcode’s IP Tags. The IP Tags visibly embedded in images link to full Meta Data including IP owner, status, Creator and licensing agents contact details. The Creative Barcode and its IP tags and Registry will provide a credible alternative to the Registered Design rights process and will bring valuable support to 1000’s of UK designers seeking to be attributed to their works, protected and remunerated.   

In response Pete Wishart MP said, “It is great that it covers Registered design rights—the great forgotten IP right. It is fantastic that ACID has at last got its way and that this will now be covered by criminal infringement provisions, but it is totally wrong that unregistered designs are not covered too. In the House of Lords there was a big debate about this on clause 13. There has also been a debate within the industry whereby a consensus has developed that if we are to pursue the idea of Registered design rights, unregistered design rights must be included. The vast majority of people who work in the design industry are in small or micro-businesses with probably fewer than four people working for them, and they cannot spend so much time making sure that things are registered. We must get this resolved.”

Annual spend on design in the UK is £33.5m and this sector employs 350,000 people, with the creative industries as a whole producing £8m pounds per hour.  The passing of the IP Bill and, in particular Clause 13, puts a more tangible focus on the value of original design and raises the stakes for those who deliberately copy a registered design with a prison sentence as the ultimate sanction.  Introducing criminal provisions for deliberate Registered design infringement creates accountability to individual board directors.

 Dids Macdonald, ACID’s CEO said, “Following ACID’s 15 year campaign, to fundamentally right a wrong, if the Bill is passed designers will have stronger protection in line with song writers, artists, film, video games and publishers and can also be part of the UK’s National crime strategy against IP theft. The key objective is for this to act as a deterrent to those who persist in deliberate copying and, just as critical, to allow small businesses to focus on growth prospects and the promotion of IP as a positive force. We are an inspirational nation and the UK’s formidable army of lone, micro and SME designers and growth creators should be fully supported as the UK’s design brand ambassadors.”

Nick Kounoupias, ACID’s Chief Legal Counsel and a partner at DMH Stallard said, “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."

Above right, Dids Macdonald yesterday at grass roots judging the fantastic UK New British Design awards at Interiors UK this week, all relying on Unregisterd Design Rights (UDR). Judging also were Barbara Chandler of the Evening Standard & John Lewis Buyer, Denise Phillips

Jane Banyai / Maxine Horn
ACID / Creative Barcode

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