Design copyright reform: the Hargreaves process bears further fruit?

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In all the excitement about the (not very significant) changes to digital copyright law brought about by the Hargreaves process, commercially significant changes to UK design law have been overlooked. UK design law, which is highly confusing even to experts, did not originally form part of Hargreaves’ brief; however he felt that it could not be ignored and therefore published a recommendation that further work be carried out with a view to modernising it. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) did carry out such work and has now produced an impact assessment that will lead to the repeal of Section 52 of the Copyright and Designs Act and Patent Act of 1988.

Section 52 (which must have been considered compatible with EU law at the time) effectively limits the term of design rights to 25 years if an artistic work which is subject to copyright is then mass produced. Section 52 is now to be abolished to “comply with EU Law” and because IPO believes that designers need to have more coherent and extensive rewards. When this change will take place is not yet determined as the IPO is considering how long a grace period is appropriate. The effect of the change will be retrospective in that design rights will be revived for those industrial designs based on copyright. The length of protection becomes the life of the creator plus 70 years…

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