Monday, September 26, 2016

News: Designers still at risk under new UK copyright law, warns intellectual property lawyer

Recent changes to UK copyright law might not give furniture designers the protections they expect.
The changes – which extend copyright for industrial design from 25 years after an item is first marketed to 70 years from the death of the creator – were considered a win for UK designers and brands whose products were replicated.
To qualify, designers will need to prove their product is "a work of artistic craftsmanship", a criteria for which there is no statutory definition. It is up to courts to decide individual cases based on past precedent.
This means pieces like the widely copied DSW Plastic Chair by Charles and Ray Eames – advocates for democratic, affordable design – might not be protected from copying.
The UK government has repealed section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This brings the country – once derided as "a Trojan Horse for the importation of copies into Europe" – into line with the rest of the EU, which has longer-lasting copyright protections.
While the future of the laws may be uncertain following June's Brexit vote, for the time being UK copyright protections for industrial design have been broadened.
Section 52 previously exempted industrially manufactured pieces from the protections afforded to artistic works. Now designers are not explicitly exempt but instead need to prove their work actually is "artistic".
Where there is a real prospect the design would qualify as a work of artistic craftsmanship.
In addition, in light of the relevance of what may have been in the mind of the designer when they created the design, it would be prudent for designers and businesses to prepare such statements now for future use in the fight against copyists.

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The Eames DWS chair by Charles and Ray Eames (1950) is one of the most widely copied furniture designs.