UK intellectual property law has long been criticized for failing to keep up with the digital age
Partly in response to this, the Intellectual Property Act 2014 came into force in October last year (with all measures to be implemented by the end of this year), in an attempt to modernise and simplify the law relating to designs and patents in the UK.
These are some of the key provisions:
- Design infringement is now a criminal offence - someone knowingly copying a registered design, without the owner’s consent, could be liable for a maximum of a 10 year prison sentence and/or a fine. It is hoped that the requirement that the copying be intentional will achieve a fair balance between design owners and potential infringers.
- In commissioned work, ownership of both unregistered and registered designs no longer vests in the commissioner, but rather in the designer. This means that from now on commissioners will need an agreement with the designer, transferring ownership, otherwise the designer will retain all ownership rights to the design so a well drafted agreement is essential before the work is begun.
- A design opinion service is now being provided for anyone affected by a registered design (and this may be extended to include unregistered designs). This will be similar to the patent opinion service already provided by the Intellectual Property Office, providing a view on the validity of registered designs, and whether an infringement claim, or indeed a defence to infringement, would be successful.
- ‘Virtual patent marking’ provides the option for all patent owners to mark their patented products with a weblink (instead of a patent number) which will give detailed information about the patent and any applications that are associated with it. The use of a weblink will serve as notice to a third party of the existence of the patent.
- The Act widens the powers of the Intellectual Property Office by allowing it to revoke a patent if it has previously given the opinion that it does not fulfill the necessary requirements to be valid. This is a quick and low cost option to invalidate the patent of a competitor, without the need to issue costly proceedings although it may discourage businesses from seeking opinions in the future, as it could render their patents void.
Theft of intellectual property can cause major economic and reputational damage, which can be avoided by businesses being able to identify and protect what they have.
Businesses should review their intellectual property in the light of this new legislation. For more information regarding the Act, and how best to protect your intellectual property, please contact Ed Barnes on 01244 354829 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.