What’s new in the Intellectual Property Act 2014?

The Intellectual Property Act 2014 has been in force for more than 6 months now. The Act modernises, simplifies and strengthens the UK’s intellectual property legislation, particularly for design rights and patents thereby making the UK’s intellectual property system more cost effective, clear and accessible. This should help SMEs better protect their rights by aiding innovation and investment.

What are the key changes for patents?

Simplifying and improving protection of patented products
Patent owners can mark patented products with an internet link at which the owner can provide the relevant patent numbers. As well as reducing cost, this public assertion of the product’s patents increases protection and provides up-to-date information for competitors.

Reducing cost of applying for a patent and increasing strength of patents granted
The IPO can provide non-binding opinions on more validity issues and on Supplementary Protection Certificates (which extend the life of a patent), and can revoke a clearly invalid patent. This means a wider range of disputes should be resolved earlier, reducing the cost of challenging a patent or a patent infringement and helping to ensure only valid patents are in force.

Power to implement the European wide Unified Patent Court (UPC)
When introduced, businesses can use a single patent to protect their inventions across almost all the EU countries rather than applying for a patent in each country, which reduces patent costs.

What are the key changes for design rights?

Simplifying and improving design protection
To better protect designs, the following simplifications have been implemented: (i) protection is given to anyone living or economically active in the EU; (ii) the designer of a commissioned design will be the first owner of the design; (iii) registering a change in ownership is simplified; (iv) registered design files can be inspected on-line; (v) protection for trivial features of UK unregistered designs is more limited; and (vi) owners will be able to specify relevant EU territories when seeking international protection.

Rights to use a design
Using a design right for experiments or teaching does not infringe an unregistered design. Also, a person may continue to use a design which has been registered provided they are acting in good faith. Further, persons permitted to use a registered Community design (valid in the UK) do not infringe associated copyright. These measures reduce complexity (including for potential disputes) and the risk investments are jeopardised.

Introduction of the criminal offence of infringing design rights
The new criminal offence of copying of UK registered designs in the course of business increases the consequences of infringement and helps designers protect and enforce their rights. This recognises designs as economically important as music (protected by copyright) and brands (protected by trade marks).

Facilitating the settling of design rights disputes using a design rights opinions service
A non-binding design rights opinions service gives an impartial view on the strength of a potential designs litigation case. This should assist more disputes to settle earlier and/or focus any litigation which does take place.

When should I do something about it?

Patent and design rights owners should mark new products with an internet link and redesign new packaging for the product. Additionally, if commissioning a product, you should ensure the agreement with the designer provides for assignment of the design rights in the product to you.

This article by Sophie Arrowsmith first appeared in the RSC Law Group newsletter, April 2015