Gisela Graham
Giving & Living
Envelopes LTD

Get prepared – Guidance from ACID

As summer fades and autumn looms, so does the exhibition season. Dids MacDonald, CEO of Anti Copying in Design (ACID), makes sure you’re prepared

There's a flurry of activity at ACID as new designs are being logged on to our enhanced Design Databank, now expanded into a safer online Marketplace; a sure way of providing more design protection certainty for new product launches at exhibitions.

Designers can invite design buyers to preview their new designs online before the exhibition, knowing design buyers have to register to view and that all visitors are traceable through IP Tracker. The Buyers Charter provides a superb opportunity for those retail buyers, independent and major, to pledge their support for design creators.

In an increasingly competitive market, good design punches above its weight as a key differentiator in consumer spending. The good news is when the exhibition closes, your designs are still able to viewed in your own 24-hour exhibition zone, 365 days a year. So, what can you do to put belt and braces around your new product launches this Autumn?

Personal experience
Design fraud happened to me. Badly. In the mid '80s, a friend and I created Holbein, a company producing hand-painted decorative accessories for top interior designers. The business was a great success. But it came with a huge problem - theft. Every time we launched a new design it was knocked off by larger companies without any hope of redress. Like the vast majority of Britain's 350,000 design companies, we were a tiny outfit. We weren't in a position to take on the unscrupulous thieves and copycats. We had no idea where to start.

So, I came up with another idea: to create a plan to help David fight Goliath. Today, Anti Copying in Design (ACID) represents thousands of designers and we're here to help the good guys defeat the bad and also promote design originality as a real route to growth - for the creator, not design thieves!

Last month, our 15-year long campaign culminated in a landmark Act of Parliament that makes intentional infringement of a registered design a criminal offence, punishable by prison. Board Directors need to take heed as they'll be individually liable if their company knowingly copies a registered design. But, there's still a lot more to do to keep our army of 350,000 designers fully protected, as the majority of designers rely on unregistered rights and design law is still incredibly complex.

Five ways to stop your designs getting ripped off
So, what can you to prevent someone ripping off your design, and what action can you take if you find out it's already happened?

1. Cross all your T's and dot every I - If costs permit, make sure you register your designs as comprehensively as possible. The downside is that UK and EU registration authorities don't examine your registrations, so what you submit is what you have to rely on. So, the more detail you include, the better! Alternatively, if you can't afford registration, ACID membership will give you access to a Design Databank through ACID Marketplace, which holds more than 300,000 designs. This doesn't add to your design rights but gives independent evidence on the date they're received by us. If you don't want to be copied, say so! There's no more powerful message on your website/marketing material. Something along the lines of, 'All the intellectual property in our designs belongs to (your name). Any infringements will be pursued seriously.'

2. Sign and date all your work - Simple, but when it comes to proving your design ownership, an audit trail of the detailed journey from idea to marketplace is compelling. The majority of ACID cases have settled based on strong evidence to support unregistered designs.

3. Become IP savvy - Know the IP laws that protect you; watch the competition. What's in a name? Trademark your brand name if you can. The more you build up your reputation either under your own name or one that you trade under, the stronger protection you have.

4. Trade more safely - With Government endorsement, ACID has started the first UK Design's exchange, a safer trading platform where designers can log their work and create positive relationships with design buyers, who can view your latest designs by registering and signing the ACID Design Buyers' Charter. The good news is that you can track who has viewed them. ACID Member Claire Louise uses the ACID Marketplace regularly, which she describes as, "An easy and efficient way of marketing and protecting your designs." Claire Louise also exhibits regularly and will be at Autumn Fair in September.

5. Make an almighty noise - Gaining public support by shouting about unfairness and a blatant disregard for design originality is just what ACID member Rob Law has done in the legal battle he's having against PMS International, a Hong Kong-based company that has produced a remarkably similar lookalike design to Rob's famous Trunki toddler case. Heavyweight designers like Sir Terence Conran, Kevin McCloud and Brompton Bike designer Will Butler-Adams have united in their support of Trunki case under the campaign banner #ProtectYourDesign. Representations will be made by ACID to the Supreme Court for clarity in what appears to be a legal technicality, not only for Trunki but UK designers in general.Clarity is needed.

If your designs continually get ripped off, contact your MP and support design law reform. After all, if you and your employees rely on protecting your designs from knock offs, jobs are on the line if you fail and that hurts.

Imitation isn't flattery if it costs you your business. It nearly cost me mine!

Further information
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