Design Rights in UK. Intellectual property (“IP”) is a category of property that includes intangible creations from the human mind – such rights can exist in a design, brand or invention (among other things). Among the most well-known IP rights are design rights, which can be registered and unregistered. These rights protect novel features that determine the appearance of all or part of a product. Under the criminal law, use of these rights without the owner’s permission can amount to a criminal offence. More specifically, the Intellectual Property Act 2014 criminalises the infringement of registered designs and allows owners of these rights to defend their property. Designers are increasingly turning to private prosecutions to protect their rights as this kind of crime tends to be overlooked by traditional law enforcement agencies.
This trend is clearly evidenced by Freedom of Information Requests that were made in 2018 to the Intellectual Property Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and the City of London Police (who pioneered the specialist Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit). Importantly, these requests revealed that none of the aforementioned organisations had commenced a criminal investigation into a design right infringement. This is an unfortunate trend because, although IP crime may not leave a person battered or a home raided, it penetrates all areas of society and has staggering implications for businesses.
At Edmonds Marshall McMahon, we work with some of the most experienced intellectual property crime investigators in the country to ensure an effective, compliant and successful investigation. Alongside our lawyers, we have a dedicated investigations team comprising former investigators from the Serious Fraud Office and detectives from the Metropolitan Police. We work closely with our firm’s investigators to gather the best evidence to take cases forward. We also assist our clients to present “prosecution ready” cases to state agencies (such as the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit) for prosecution.