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Changes to the law on Industrial Copyright

» Posted on: 2 Jul 2016

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After much discussion, the Government finally repealed Section 52 of the Copyright Design & Patents Act 1988 (“CDPA”) on 28 July 2016. What does that mean for designers and manufacturers?

Section 52 limited copyright protection for artistic works that had been industrially manufactured (and more than 50 copies made) to a protection period of only 25 years. Now, to bring industrially manufactured items into line with other artistic works the Government has repealed that provision and the “usual” period of life of the author plus 70 years now applies to these products.

Who is affected? The persons affected are not only the manufacturers of “look-a-likes” of iconic products such as the “Barcelona” chair, but also any manufacturer of products that reproduce industrially an artistic design. The legislative change can affect all manufacturers to the extent that they have taken the opportunity to reproduce third party designs that previously fell out of copyright because they had been manufactured industrially more than 25 years ago by the original copyright owner.

It is worthwhile reviewing whether there are any designs in your current range that have not been bought in or licensed and were originally manufactured by a competitor more than 25 years ago. In those circumstances you should look at the identity of the original creator of the design and check whether he or she has been dead for more than 70 years. The amended provision will not affect (for example) Victorian designs which have been reproduced or adapted recently.

The situation is more onerous for furniture manufacturers, who face a much more difficult question namely whether the items they reproduce are “works of artistic craftsmanship” per Section 4 of the CDPA. These works are also affected by the extension of protection to life of the designer plus 70 years and the question is particularly difficult because there is no accepted definition of a “work of artistic craftsmanship” and specialist advice should be sought if there is any doubt.

For advice on the effects of the repeal of the Section, the transition period, and all aspects of the protection and exploitation of your intellectual property contact Tony Catterall, Head of the Intellectual Property Team at Taylors, on 01254 297900 or via email at tony.catterall@taylors.co.uk. Taylors is the only North West based firm to have been appointed as a legal affiliate to the National organisation Anti Copying In Design (“ACID”).

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