Stay Informed

Dids Macdonald offers her tips and advice on keeping up-to-date with intellectual property

Why is IP important for growth? Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the 'B' word, designing and making is flying high in the UK so it is a good place to be. Did you know that the design sector as a whole punches above its weight and its value has grown consistently over two decades generating £85.2bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK in 2016. This is 7 per cent of the UK's GVA. Between 2009 and 2016 the GVA of the design economy grew by 52 per cent. In 2016, there were 1.69m people employed in design roles, and there are 78,030 design-intensive firms. The 'intellectual capital' of the sector cannot be under-estimated. It is a critical asset to our future economic success. It is the DNA running through most creative businesses whether micro or macro. Its influence is a palpable presence in the work of individuals and design teams. When Intellectual property (IP) is devalued then this becomes a challenge to the sustainability of the design sector. IP is but one component of the intellectual capital of a design business, often described as the intangible value of a business. IP is about respecting people (human capital) and their corporate endeavours.

Brexit – deal or no deal
Our extensive research has confirmed the majority of UK designers rely on unregistered EU and UK designs. This is a worrying prospect with, as yet, no position from Government. When the UK leaves the EU it will no longer be possible for UK designers, whose designs are first exhibited in the UK, to claim the EU design right protection in the other 27-member states of the EU. This is because in order for the EU right to come into being in the first place, this first publication /exhibiting must have taken place in an EU member state. As from 1st April, 2019 the UK will not be an EU member state. If you would like to make your MP aware, please contact us at ACID and join our campaign to help UK designers have clarity and certainty at

What can you do in the meantime?
Design registration is an obvious answer to design protection and enforcement. A UK or EU registered design is a monopoly right lasting 25 years. So, hurry now and Brexit-proof your designs because if you have a registered EU design with protection in 27 other member states the Government have committed to providing similar protection. You can register a design so long as it is basically different to anything already on the market, i.e. that it has distinctive character, that it hasn't been copied from another design and it is not obscene.

Trade Marks – a change in the law from January, 2019
A trade mark, brand or name by which you are known and under which your reputation sits is one of the most important IP rights you can rely on, so it is important to get it right. On 14th January there are some vital changes. As the law will change it is good to get ahead of the game so that you know about essential things such as the representation of your trade mark when registering, guarding against counterfeiting and procedures associated with infringement. Don't forget too that if you are unlucky enough to experience online infringement none of the search engines, online marketplaces or social media sites will take copyists down without a registered trade mark. All new changes are summarised in helpful guidelines from our friends the Intellectual Property Office. If you google 'Implementation of the EU Trade Mark Directive' you will find all the help you will need.

Three common myths or howlers
It is hardly believable after all this time, but there are still many myths about intellectual property and a lot of those are believed by those who infringe – so ensure you know the top five! Inevitably, there are those who take the fast track to market through copying and many designers are confused by what seems a very complicated area of law. It can be very dispiriting but good design is still a significant factor in acquiring the competitive edge and you should not be discouraged by some of the myths that are bandied about.

1) For example, a lot of copyists wrongly think that if you change a design a number of times or by a percentage, they are creating something new – this is a complete fallacy. For a 3-D design, it is whether an alleged copy makes enough overall difference to an original design. It is not the number or percentage of changes that somebody makes to your design but the importance of the elements they have taken from your design which decides whether they have infringed your rights. This will always vary from case to case.

2) Can I register my copyright? No, you can't because in the UK copyright arises automatically upon the creation of a work in a tangible form (e.g. a design drawing); there is no requirement for registration. However, in the USA you can register copyright. However, you can send your original designs to the ACID IP Databank which provides safe, tamper proof, dated third party evidence of your design's existence with a unique number reference and a downloadable certificate of lodgement.

3) I want to register my design to protect the way it works You can't because you would have to apply for a patent rather than a design registration. However, to obtain a patent you would have to demonstrate that the way that your design works is novel and inventive.

4) I have protected the name of my business because I have registered the name at Companies House. You haven't, because a registered company name does not give you rights in the name on which you can enforce against third parties – for this you need a registered trade mark.

5) If I do not include the ©2018 (name) notice on my work I will not benefit from copyright protection. Not true! In the UK copyright arises automatically when you record your original work in a tangible form. However, it is wise to include such a notice because it notifies others that you are claiming copyright in your work.

Whether you are using, protecting or exploiting the intellectual property you create to achieve growth through your new designs, strengthening your brand through registering your trade mark or using licensing to expand growth, it's good to get “IP savvy!” ACID W:

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