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UK designs framework: Government paves way for future consultation

Posted on 20 July 2022

The folding exterior of Tuletornen creates an interesting mix of shadows and highlights

In early 2022, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) published a Designs Framework Survey and Call for Views on the UK designs system. It sought detailed feedback from stakeholders to inform consideration of whether any legislative change is needed to ensure that the UK designs regime is "fit for the future" and adequately incentivises innovation.

The Government has now released its response to the feedback received in respect of both the Survey and the Call for Views, summarising the views of respondents and setting out areas to be considered for future consultation.

We explained here (on the Survey) and here (on the Call for Views) that the UKIPO was seeking views on the full spectrum of design protection across three broad areas: new opportunities, future technologies and the digital environment and better regulation.

The UKIPO received 288 responses to the Survey (which was aimed at designers with non-technical knowledge of the designs system) and 57 responses to the Call for Views. The Government's response summarises responses received in respect of each topic covered by the Call for Views, as well as setting out its brief views on the issues and proposed next steps. At this stage, the Government has not expressed any concrete views on the issues raised, nor does it reach any conclusions. However, it is clear is that we can expect a consultation in future months which will seek further stakeholder views and/or evidence on at least the following topics:

  • Pre-registration search and examination
  • Simplifying the current system, particularly in relation to unregistered designs, as well as potential reform and/or guidance on the relationship between design and copyright law
  • The potential gap in protection arising out of the separate UK and EU criteria relating to disclosure of unregistered designs and the current uncertainty surrounding what constitutes simultaneous disclosure
  • Different methods for representing designs in the context of advancing technologies, and the impact of such technological changes on the design system
  • Options for a deferment provision different to the one currently in place
  • Possible methods for making enforcement easier for all rights owners
  • The implications of existing criminal sanctions for registered designs, as well as their possible extension to unregistered designs.

Clearly, the different and overlapping ways in which designs can currently be protected in the UK presents complexity and uncertainty, alongside the risks of gaps in protection. Brexit has introduced further layers of complexity into the framework, but also there is now the opportunity to identify improvements in the system. Designers are therefore encouraged to continue participating in the Government's consultations in this area. 

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