Fake replicas of classic designs banned under new copyright ruling

Written by: Sarah Dawood
Published on: 4 Aug 2016

Fake replicas article

DSW chair, by Charles & Ray Eames

A change to copyright law means that fake versions of classic design icons such as Ray and Charles Eames’ chairs will stop being sold from January 2017 onwards.

A change in copyright law has now come into effect in the UK, which looks to protect classic designs from imitation.

The repeal of section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 came into effect on 28 July, and means that iconic design products will now be protected for 70 years after a designer dies.

This includes products such as Arne Jacobsen’s egg chair and Charles and Ray Eames’ DSW plastic chair.

“Works of artistic craftsmanship”

The ruling states that no replica products can be sold after 28 January 2017, which will mark six months after it was put in place. Additionally, no new replica products can be manufactured between now and January, unless the company gains rights from the original copyright holder.

To be granted this right, 3D designs must qualify as “works of artistic craftsmanship”, according to the Intellectual Property Office – this means they have required special training and skill to make, they are seen as a “piece of art”, and the designer purposefully intended to create a work of art.

For any designs created after the year 1988, designers are also protected by registered and unregistered design rights, says Dids Macdonald, founder at Anti-Copying in Design (ACID) and communications chairman at The Furniture Makers’ Company.

“Designers should register their designs”

Designers can fall back on registered design rights if they choose to register their designs, and unregistered design rights if they don’t. Registered rights last for 25 years, and unregistered rights last for 15 years after production.

Macdonald advises: “Designers should register their designs as a priority, and if they’re relying on unregistered rights, then they should keep signed and dated records.”

ACID has a database, where people can send their designs for free. The organisation will note the time and date the work was submitted with a unique number, so that designers have evidence of when a design was first created.

“Become intellectual property-savvy and understand the rights that protect you,” Macdonald says. “Design rights are still valid in Europe and the UK until Brexit comes into force.”

For a longer read on the banning of imitation designs and how classic icons will now be better protected, read our detailed piece from June here.

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