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Lobbyists push for tighter rules to safeguard fashion designs in Intellectual Property Bill

Campaigners for criminal penalties around intellectual property rights infringement were battling for a last-minute law amendment that would include unregistered fashion designs as Drapers went to press this week.

Lobby group Anti Copying In Design (ACID) has been pushing for changes to design law for 15 years and last week won the first stage of the fight after the Intellectual Property Bill was passed through by the House of Commons.

The law will enable those who have registered their designs to take possible infringers to the criminal courts. But, with the bill now at the committee stage, ACID and supporters are trying to add a clause covering unregistered designs, offering protection for fashion designs, which owing to their short life spans are rarely registered.

ACID chief executive Dids Macdonald told Drapers that although there were cases of fashion designs being copied, under current rules small businesses or one-man bands could not afford to pursue offenders.

“We are using all our energy to persuade the Government. We had a meeting with David Willetts MP (the Conservative minister for universities and sciences who led the second reading of the bill in the Commons) last week and are doing everything we can to get it included. But if we can’t get unregistered design rights in at this stage we will get the bill amended at a later date,” she said.

“There is no reason, if we are to harmonise with the rest of Europe, that unregistered design rights should not be included.”

Although ACID has the support of several MPs – including the Scottish National Party’s Pete Wishart, Conservative Mike Weatherley and Labour’s shadow business minister for competitiveness and enterprise Iain Wright – Willets has yet to be convinced.

However, during last week’s hearing he conceded he would be “happy to consider it further in committee”. The committee reconvenes today.

At present businesses can pursue civil action for both registered and unregistered design rights.

Two such cases include Karen Millen versus Dunnes, an eight-year battle over a shirt and a top sold by the Irish department store, and a case over a Christmas jumper suit between Littlewoods and Irish etailer Zatori.

House of Fraser and Jack Wills are also battling it out over a registered design – Jack Wills’ partridge logo – which HoF is seeking to invalidate.

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