UCL Faculty of Laws


UK Design Law at the Crossroads

23 November 2022, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm


RECORDING AVAILABLE: UCL Institute of Brand & Innovation Law's Annual Innovation Seminar

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UCL Laws
Bentham House, Endsleigh Gardens

About this event

Once perceived as the 'Cinderella' of IP rights, design protection has come of age, now catching policy makers’ attention as an essential component of an innovative economy. While the outcome of the European Commission’s ongoing review of EU design protection, commenced back in 2014, is still awaited, the UK Government has been more nimble having already published its Response to the first stage of the UKIPO Design Rights Consultation which was launched earlier in the year.

The informal Call for Views in January was triggered by the UK’s departure from the EU. The government flags Brexit as an opportunity to create an up-to-date and flexible legal framework for the protection of designs that will better encourage creativity and innovation, and afford the UK with a ‘competitive edge’. Few would disagree that the current legal framework that protect designs is in need of review. Aside from any protection that trade mark law might offer, no less than three kinds of unregistered design protection operate alongside the current scheme for registration of designs. Additionally, there is continued uncertainty as to the full  implications of certain pre-Brexit copyright jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU covering product shapes. Will UK courts take Cofemel, Levola and Brompton Bicycle to mean that practically any product form - bar the most technical - is now eligible for full copyright protection? In which case, should the UK legislator take steps to ensure that overlapping copyright and design protection remains the exception for works ‘applied art’, rather than the rule?     

Having received over 50 responses from designers, academics, the legal professions and trade bodies, the IPO has identified its priorities for its forthcoming formal consultation. These include:

  • Improvements to registration of designs – looking to balance the speed and value of the UK designs registration service against concerns that lack of any  pre-registration search and examination leads to a significant pool of invalid registrations, including bad faith filings.
  • Simplifying the designs system -  most perceive that the UK system of registered design protection is complex and in need of simplification, but is it possible to keep the ‘best bits’ from the current regimes, without reducing current levels of protection? The consultation will also address the thorny relationship between design and copyright law, but is more or less overlap the way forward?
  • Future technologies: The government has acknowledged that new technologies (including AI, blockchain, NFTs and the Metaverse) will have an impact on designers, but seeks input from stakeholders to ensure the UK designs system will be adaptable to support new technological developments. What changes might be needed?
  • Enforcement: the IPO are aware that the cost of enforcing rights can be prohibitive for many design right holders, and is seeking input on how the UK enforcement framework could be improved.

Hear the latest update from the Policy Team at the UK Intellectual Property Office, and add your voice to this important debate.

The participants

UCL's Institute of Brand and Innovation Law has brought together a distinguished panel to consider which path UK design law should take.

Speakers (in order of appearance):

Chair: David Stone (Allen & Overy LLP and Deputy High Court Judge)


Watch the recording below or on our UCL IBIL YouTube channel

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