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Changes to law may help designers

Oct 29th, 2018

Fiona Kingscott, Solicitor

Previously, if you commissioned a design, you would own the design right. 

A recent change in the law means that, now, the designer will own it.  This was already the situation with copyright: the first owner is the creator, not the commissioner. 

The importance of having a clear contract

Having a contract with your designer is vital, if you want to be sure you own the design you are paying for.  You cannot simply assume that you will own the design because you paid for the design work. 

It is always important, when working together with someone else to design a product, and then exploit the design right in it, that you spell out in a contract (a) who is to own the design right and (b) whether you can each go your separate way and compete with each other, after the design right expires.  UK unregistered design right will normally run out after just ten years, opening up the market, but you can bind your partner into non-competition clauses.

Other recent changes which should help designers include:

  • Deliberate copying of a registered design is now a criminal offence, punishable by up to ten years in prison.
  • It is an offence to use an intentionally copied design in the course of a business.
  • 70 years post death copyright is now available for works of art which are mass manufactured - read more here
  • A design opinions service (run by the Intellectual Property Office) is set to be introduced, which will provide affordable, impartial, yet authoritative opinions on design infringement.  An opinion can help you negotiate a settlement without going to court.  There is already a patent opinions service.
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Fiona Kingscott


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