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A change to the law governing registered designs

After consultation, the UK Government has decided to change the law to make it easier for businesses to enforce their registered designs.

At present, under UK law, innocent infringers of registered designs are not liable for damages.

However, registered design owners can label or mark their products with the word ‘registered’ and the relevant registered design number, in order to ensure that anyone who infringes the design cannot later claim they were not aware of the registration and thus were an 'innocent infringer'. The reality is that in many cases this is impractical, or difficult, to do, especially if the design of a product is protected by a number of different registered designs. It also adds a cost burden to businesses.

Earlier this year the UK Government proposed to amend the law, so as to allow registered design owners to mark their products with a web address at which details of their registered designs would be set out, as another way of providing notice of their UK and Community registered designs. The law already allows for this in respect of patents.

After consultation, the Government has decided that it will bring forward suitable measures to amend the law, so as to provide registered design owners with the option of marking a product with the address of a website which links the product with the relevant registered design numbers as an alternative way of providing constructive notice.

As the Minister for IP states: "This measure should allow businesses greater choice and flexibly and have a quickly realisable tangible benefit. I am pleased to note that the views of the respondents are clear: businesses choosing to avail themselves of the new option to provide notice of registered design rights by web-marking will be able to realise benefits in terms of time and cost savings. Third parties should also benefit from increased transparency and ease of access to the most up to date information. This measure will also bring registered design rights in line with patents, and allows a similar approach to that successfully taken in the USA."