Important news for designers and traders in replica designs

Print publication


The term of copyright protection for literary, dramatic and musical works is the creator’s life plus 70 years. However, currently, where artistic copyright is exploited (with the copyright owner’s consent) by the making of articles to the copyright design, using an industrial process, the period of protection reduces to 25 years.

Designers have long complained that this provision (contained in section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA)) is unfair. However, legislation contained in section 74 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which has been enacted but not yet come into force, will extend copyright protection of ‘artistic’ manufactured goods to the life of the creator plus 70 years, repealing section 52 of the CDPA.

The date for implementation of the repeal of section 52 has not yet been set, but the Government has been consulting in recent weeks on a repeal date of 6 April 2018, with a three-year transitional period commencing on 6 April 2015. We should know shortly what the date of repeal will be.

While designers will benefit from an extended period for gathering royalties beyond the 25-year term, the implications for businesses that trade in replicas could be considerable. With the risk of fines, and even custodial sentences, for breach of copyright, businesses that have traded in replicas will need to rethink their business model, clear existing stock and perhaps look to purchase design licences for items they wish to continue selling and/or invest in their own designs – with the obvious costs implications that this will entail.

Conversely, the advent of new technologies (including the use of 3D printing technology) have made it easier than ever to copy and reproduce the finest details of original designs; therefore, the new provisions will assist in protecting more classic UK designs from illegal copying, which the Government hopes will promote creativity and boost the design industry.