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Changes Imminent for Design Copyright

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Under current law in the UK, the term of copyright protection for an artistic work which is exploited through an industrial process is currently limited to 25 years from when it is first marketed. This time limit is the same for registered designs, some of which also qualify separately for copyright protection as artistic works. Section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 prevents such works from enjoying the full copyright protection period, which is normally the life of the creator plus 70 years.

This is set to change with the introduction of section 65 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which intends to repeal section 52, giving artistic work which is exploited through an industrial process the full term of copyright protection.

Changes Welcomed in Design Industry

The change is welcome news to many in the design industry, who see the reform as a step in the right direction to ensure that copyright of artistic work is properly protected. As well as bringing UK policy in line with that of the EU and other creative professions, there is hope that the change will encourage more investment of time and talent into the UK design industry; renewing interest in design, British manufacturing and helping lead to the creation of jobs.

However promising this may sound though, not everyone is celebrating.

Concerns for Replica Product Manufacturers and Other Design Users

Advances in technology and manufacturing process allow even the most meticulous works to be easily copied by replica product manufacturers. After the current 25 year period has passed, artistic work which is exploited through an industrial process can be copied or imitated without any permission.

These conditions have created a market for replica items which are sold at a fraction of the price of the originals, and it is acknowledged that the sale of replicas is a practice that accounts for a large part of the furniture industry in particular. It is estimated that over 6,000 British businesses will be affected by the repeal of section 52, which in turn could risk thousands of jobs.

One further issue; permission will also need to be sought for the use of qualifying designs in publications or documentaries and in institutions such as universities or museums.


While the design industry could potentially be reinvigorated by the repeal of section 52, significant collateral damage may ensue, particularly to replica product manufacturers. Many issues need to be addressed before such a significant change can be implemented. Seeking permissions for every design will not only be time consuming, but potentially very costly.

If you think that your business might be affected by these changes it is important to act early to reduce the potential impact. Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can help you prepare and ensure that your business will comply with the law. For more information please contact James Crichton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.