IP Bill – criminal sanctions for design rights

We have been following the Intellectual Property Bill closely since its introduction on May 9th earlier this year. Among the proposals for design reform in the Bill, clause 13 creates a new criminal offence for the copying of UK registered designs, with the intention of strengthening the protection of design rights.

There is real concern from business that this aspect of the legislation, as it is currently drafted, will open a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of unintended consequences – potentially discouraging the very kind of legitimate, competitive risk-taking that policy-makers have been keen to encourage as a driver of growth.

Our representations to Government and engagement with the House of Lords have set out business concerns regarding these potential unintended consequences of the draft legislation, particularly in relation to:

- The impact criminal sanctions will have on business decision-making
- The workability of the proposals
- The potential impact on inward investment and employment in the UK.

As part of our advocacy, we also put together a short ICC paper which seeks to debunk a number of “myths” that have been advanced to support the introduction of criminal sanctions.

In advance of the Report Stage of the debate in the House of Lords, due to take place tomorrow, we are pleased to note that amendments have been tabled by Lords Stevenson and Young which address the business concerns set out above. If carried, the amendments will include the need for copying to be ‘deliberate’ and will ensure that criminal sanctions cannot be pursued until infringement has been proven.

We are continuing to closely track the progress of the Bill through Parliament and will keep members updated on our outreach. Of particular concern is an amendment tabled which introduces criminal sanctions for the infringement of unregistered design rights – something which, in our view, will have serious negative consequences for UK businesses both large and small.

For more information on ICC UK’s work in this area please contact Emilie Boman.