23 May 2024, 03:57
By Dids Macdonald Feb 12, 2020

One nation against imitation

Anti Copying in Design (ACID) is urging the new Government to proactively protect UK design rights for the sake of economic growth, writes CEO Dids Macdonald OBE …

Whether you were delighted or dismayed by the recent election result, about one thing we can be certain – as one exhausted political sun set, another arose, bringing an end to paralysis on many levels. It feels like breathing a national sigh of relief with renewed energy.

One big advantage that IP-rich industries such as the UK furniture and furnishings sector already have, but which can now be reinforced, is our international appeal – an important calling card for a Government to demonstrate our design and manufacturing credentials. So, the need to protect its all-too-precious intellectual property (IP) is even more paramount now as we explore and forge new markets to ensure that businesses can achieve growth in a more certain climate in 2020 (and beyond).  

With a whole new raft of politicians having arrived in Westminster, our collective focus must be to connect and shout about our UK design and manufacturing prowess. How good we are, how many jobs our industry sustains and how UK design and manufacture, in all its forms of innovation, contributes significantly to their (and our) lives. 

The capability and capacity of our sector to innovate creates the valuable IP behind some of the leading names in our industry, and its protection is a key factor in helping grow the economy. Strong protection of IP is vital in discussions in future trade agreements.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, congratulating him on his recent electoral success, I brought to his urgent personal attention a potentially calamitous situation – if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement on the protection of UK unregistered design rights in EU27. 

Currently there is protection for three years and, as the majority of designers rely on unregistered rights, urgent attention is required. 

Despite representations and evidence submitted to the Government over the last three-and-a-half years, the current advice is to seek individual legal guidance. This is not good enough, as IP lawyers are unable to give advice, or offer certainty, because this requires negotiation at Government level. UK designers in this sector deserve positive action and guidance.

By demonstrating the importance of the continued protection of IP which underpins our sector, we can help grow the economy, in businesses and industry across the country. However, this will only happen if there is continued strong protection of IP in EU27. It is vital that this issue is a priority in discussions about trade agreements.

I reminded the Prime Minister that in 2014, following a campaign spearheaded by ACID, the intentional infringement of a registered design was made a crime, enshrined in the IP Act. This deterrent has had a significant effect on registered design infringement. I urged him to ensure that unregistered design infringement also has criminal provisions in a post-Brexit period.

Lastly, I respectfully requested him to appoint a dedicated Intellectual Property Minister who does not share his or her portfolio with another department. 

The IP that the UK creates is vital to our economic future, and it is time that this is given the priority it deserves.

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