Changes to UK law on designs

Posted by on Aug 11, 2014 in , | No Comments

Change to design law uk

Designers, Marketers and Social Media Strategists are used to rules changing on a daily basis. Facebook’s recent decision to drop the ‘Like / fan gate’ has again infuriated Social Media Managers and those looking to provide comfortable, low cost social media campaign options. Likewise the well documented reordering of the Pantone Matching System had graphic designers all in a tizzy and Apple’s decision not to adopt Adobe Flash had the multimedia industry rethinking their approach to interaction and media rich applications.

Finally then, a change for the better, and some welcome news for UK Designers… October 1st 2014 brings with it an important change to design law with further changes due in 2015.

It’s the norm that commissioned photographers, musicians and artists retain the rights to their images and music, licensing their use to clients on a tiered pricing structure based on criteria such as length of use, geographical reach, media used, and exclusivity. All rights remain with the creator unless a contract said otherwise.

But what of the commissioned work of designers, where so often all rights and intellectual property are handed over for unlimited use globally, across any media, by default? Why should design, and graphic design in particular be an anomaly?

‘Design law is often considered messy, complex and confusing, and small businesses, who don’t have the time or resources to disentangle it, can lose out. The IP Act will introduce a number of new measures and make some changes to the law in order to make design law simpler, clearer and more robust.’ – GOV.UK

Changes on October 1st therefore are a big win for the recognition of the talent, IP and invested experience of designers, as the ownership no longer falls automatically to the commissioner, but the designer. This brings UK design provisions in line with those of copyright. Furthermore, a designer’s work is more fiercely protected, with intentional copying of a registered design soon to be a criminal offence.

Here is an overview of the main changes to designs law introduced by the Intellectual

Property Act:

1. Design ownership: the owner of a commissioned design will now be the
designer and not the commissioner (unless a contract states otherwise).

2. Prior use of a design: where someone uses a design in good faith that is
subsequently registered by another person, there will be some protection from
infringement action.

3. The intentional copying of a registered design is now a criminal offence.

4. Other changes happening in October 2014: these include simplifying who is
able to qualify for an unregistered design right in the UK and restricting the
ability to base a claim for copying on a cropped area of an unregistered design
(a ‘part of a part’).

5. Future changes to the law: these include the creation of an impartial, nonbinding
opinions service and extending the Hague international design
registration system. More specific guidance will be published at the time of the
change in question.

The business guidance from the Intellectual Property Office reads as follows:

‘In any situation where two or more businesses or individuals work with each other
it is vitally important that contracts are in place which establish who owns the
intellectual property – including any design rights.

It is also important to note that a contract may contain terms that are written, oral
or implied. Equally, an employment relationship may exist between a designer and
the person for whom the design is created even where this is not documented in
writing. Therefore, care and appropriate advice should be taken in relation to the
contractual terms and the employment situation.

What does it mean?

If you are an employer: you continue to own the rights to any design that your
employees produce as part of their job and under the terms of their employment

If you are a self employed or independent designer: you own the rights to your
design, even if someone else commissions you to create it, unless a contract,
which says otherwise, is in place.

If you commission someone else to create a design: you do not own the right in
the design unless a contract says so.’

Changes take effect from 1st October 2014.

get swotting up on the details by downloading the full 20 page PDF here.

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