Dids Macdonald, ACID's CEO explains why IP awareness is so important for British design, and explains how gift and accessories buyers can help clamp down on imitations.
The UK giftware sector is a massive success story worth approximately £5 billion and there's a renewed renaissance in the Made in Britain tag - a great boost for UK designer/makers and retailers. Consumers want to buy British with pride and support the incredible UK design army who are mainly small, but incredibly talented micro or SMEs. The creative industries, including design, are one of the UK's greatest achievements, growing at almost twice the rate of the wider economy and worth a staggering £84 billion a year.
The majority of the UK's innovators consistently fuel the diversity of great new product availability for this sector. So for buyers, whether they represent independent retailers, high street multiples, department stores, heritage outlets or other gift stockist, design matters! Why? Because original design is a key differentiator enabling informed and profitable buying decisions. UK designers are world leaders, but the dark side is that copies and knock offs threaten the sector and pose a huge threat to originality and this has a consequence for all. So there is a duty on all in the market chain (designers and buyers) to clamp down on imitations to preserve the oxygen that continues to breathe life into this sector.
Most buyers want to support original design because it provides consumer choice. Often it can be one isolated but misguided decision that can bring an otherwise respectable and valued brand into disrepute. Be IP savvy - it doesn't make sense to instruct a third party to copy designs
A design buyer can be liable if they authorise someone else to make a copy of a design. In some cases, design buyers have sent designs to manufacturers in the Far East to source cheaper copies. This doesn't make sense because they can be sued quite effectively when the knock offs reach western markets.
Sometimes, when a designer's original products have been selling successfully, retailers have cut out the designer and sourced a remarkably similar product more cheaply elsewhere. The misunderstanding that a design can be "tweaked or changed by a percentage" to create a new design is a complete myth.
It makes sense to ask for indemnities and check the design's audit trail. It's in a design buyer's best interests to use only reputable suppliers who do not produce copies of designs as design buyers, too, can be liable for selling an infringing design.
Following the IP Act in 2014, and ACID's long campaign, the intentional infringement of a registered design is a crime (punishable by up to 10 years in prison) and individual directors are also liable. UK design laws have been strengthened considerably so that there are now very few loopholes remaining to exploit.
In-house design teams: Do employ designers to produce original designs. It's cool to support originality. Sometimes design buyers invite companies to tender for product placement; the samples are then taken apart and examined closely with a view to producing a new version of that design. Very rarely is feedback given to those that respond to tender with the reasons for being unsuccessful. This isn't playing fair to unsuspecting designers who deserve to be rewarded for bringing original designs to be seen.
A company is liable for the acts of each of its employees. Very often, it only takes one designer or buyer in a large company to cause considerable damage to the reputation and business of that organisation. Also social media is becoming the fast track to fair play. Look at the Tatty Devine and Claire's Accessories case and others emerging. Don't defend legal cases just for the sake of it. If you do become the subject of a legal action for selling a copy, resist the temptation to instruct lawyers to try to defend the action on technical points. The longer a legal action goes on, the higher the legal costs will be and, unless you succeed, you will not only have to pay your own legal costs, but also the other side's legal costs together with any compensation awarded by the Court.
Being named in ensuing publicity is not good for the giftware industry as a whole so why should a few who choose the fast track to market, by not playing fairly and within the law, bring this amazing sector into disrepute?
To find out more, visit www.acid.uk.com