Overhaul of copyright law affects third party designs

With changes to UK copyright legislation set to be introduced, The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is asking industry members and copyright owners to give their views as part of a consultation for increasing the length of time that industrial copyright work is protected.

By the intellectual property team at Taylors Solicitors.

UK copyright legislation generally protects a creative work for the life of its creator plus seventy years. Nevertheless, there is an exception for artistic works which have been industrially copied on more than fifty occasions, with such works only being protected for twenty five years from when they are first marketed. So it is currently lawful to produce any design that has been industrially exploited for over twenty five years.

However, that exception is to be repealed, meaning that designs based on old artistic works which could previously have been used by businesses without worry of copyright infringement, may now open them up to liability.

This is a significant change for anyone involved in manufacturing or selling items which contain or are based on third party artistic designs more than twenty five years old. You may have been within the law until now, but that is about to change. The exercise of auditing product lines for ‘old’ designs, deciding whether to replace offending lines, commission new designs, or pay royalties to new found right holders, could prove to be a time-consuming and costly exercise.

To compound the problem, current proposals suggest the change will only affect articles made after the date the change comes into force. So, if you happen to still have products in manufacture when the time for change comes, you could be left with some of your same product line being legitimately unlicensed, with the remainder of the line being subject to copyright infringement!

The IPO is however at least conscious of the impact the change will have. It is therefore currently proposing to implement the extended period of protection with a three year transition period, starting from April 2015.

However before committing to this, it has asked for views from anyone concerned in relation to the impact of the proposed plan for implementation. The consultation remains open until 27 October – make sure you have your say!

The Consultation can be found here. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/transitional-provisions-for-the-repeal-of-section-52-of-the-cdpa Taylors' Intellectual Property team, led by Tony Catterall, is recognised nationally and internationally for its expertise and experience in protecting and enforcing the rights of designers, particularly in the textiles, fashion and home furnishings sectors. It has won many notable and key cases in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court against major corporates. Taylors is the only North West-based firm to have been appointed as a Legal Affiliate to the national organisation, Anti-Copying in Design (ACID).