Change In The Law Forces Clamp Down On Copycat Designers

Intellectual Property Specialist Reacts To The Changes


Oliver Wicks, Press Officer | 0114 274 4649

A new law has come into force in the UK that extends copyright protection for 2D and 3D designs such as photographs, furniture and home furnishings from 25 years to 70 years after a designer’s death.

Georgie Collins, an intellectual property expert at national law firm Irwin Mitchell has warned that the changes may have a significant impact on companies that produce replicas of artistic works and those that create and use 2D images of works, such as museums, image libraries and photographers.

Copycat designer furniture has long been popular for those looking for a stylish home on a budget and previous to last week's (28 April) changes anyone could make replicas as long as 25 years had passed since the design first went on sale.

This is no longer the case and the change to the law now means only the original designer, or companies who hold official licences granted by the designer or the designers successor, can legitimately make or copy an article that corresponds with the design.

Retailers of these replicas now have a 6 month grace period during which time they will be allowed to sell off their stock without any legal challenges.

Expert Opinion
“The UK has been forced to harmonise its laws in line with those of its European neighbours in relation to artistic designs that are industrially produced.

“Under section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ("CDPA"), any articles created from designs derived from an artistic work which were manufactured through an industrial process had a reduced period of copyright protection of 25 years.

“The rationale was that artistic works that were mass produced should not enjoy the same period of protection as more refined and rare works and to bring the period of copyright protection into line with the period of protection for design right.

“The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 repealed section 52 and has extended the period of copyright protection to 70 years following the death of the artist. The change in law will affect those that produce replicas of artistic works but also those that create and use 2D and 3D images of works, such as museums, image libraries and photographers.

“For those businesses involved in the replica market or who have produced articles that are based on other designs, they will have until 28 October 2016 to deplete their stock before having to negotiate a licence fee with the rights owners. In the absence of a licence they risk being on the wrong end of litigation.

“A significant effect of this legislation is that it will apply to articles that had been legitimately manufactured post the old 25 year period of protection but are now afforded the usual period of copyright protection of 70 years from the death of the artist.”
Georgie Collins, Partner