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CIPA attacks plans to criminalise design law infringement

A bill that aims to criminalise the copying of designs could see infringers locked up for 10 years and must be reworded, CIPA, a group representing patent attorneys in the UK, has told the government

The draft Intellectual Property Bill is due to have its third reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday. One of its most controversial provisions would make infringing of registered designs a criminal act, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

CIPA, theChartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, says that the bill must be modified so that it applies only to deliberate criminal copying of designs.

“CIPA does not see the need for this measure,” says CIPA president and former IBM patent attorney Roger Burt. “The existing ways of going after deliberate copying are adequate.” But he added that if politicians want to change the law they should be very careful how they word it. CIPA has proposed making only “deliberate and sustained copying” a criminal offence.

“In some areas of design, it is commonplace for mass-market goods to be inspired by or even look similar to more exclusive goods,” Burt added. “There is generally no intention to deceive. If this is now to become illegal, it will either clog up the courts and the prisons or, more likely, will cause designers to stop producing goods that bear any resemblance at all to current trends and fashions. Neither outcome would be in the public interest.”

The IPO has published a guide to the design law provisions within the IP Bill which is available on its website.

The proposal to make design infringement a criminal offence is seen as a big success for the industry group Anti-Copying in Design (ACID). Managing IP included founder Dids Macdonald in its 2013 list of the most influential people in IP, published earlier this month.

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