New “webmarking” system for registered designs

Innovative designs are big business. A recent report for NESTA [1] estimated that 10% of investment in intangible assets relates to design, and this is reflected in the increasing number of new designs being filed – over 5000 [2] just in the UK last year and close to a staggering 98,000 [3] at European Community level.

So the Government’s recent announcement on “webmarking” is good news for businesses who have protected their designs by registering them. Under the new system, a designer will be able to notify third parties of his rights by putting a website on his product, linking to details of his registered designs, rather than having to put the design number(s) itself (which can become cumbersome when there are lots of registrations and/or quickly become obsolete, meaning the designer has to keep producing new versions of the product, often at considerable expense).

This new system brings designs in to line with patents and aligns us more closely to the US system, the key benefit being that an infringer cannot say his actions were innocent (i.e. he did not know the design was registered) which would otherwise mean the design holder could not recover damages following a successful infringement action, but only an account of profits (which is of no use if only limited sales of the infringing product have been made).

We therefore await with interest the promised “minor amendments” to the legislation which will bring webmarking in to effect – and wonder if we will in due course see the same proposal put forward for trade marks!

Gill Jennings & Every has a specialist team of attorneys advising on issues relating to registered and unregistered designs. Our attorneys will be happy to discuss with you ways to protect your designs or help you recover damages where infringements may have occurred. For an informal discussion please contact Heather Lane on 020 7655 8500 or heather.lane@gje.com. For any trade mark issues please contact Rowena Price on 020 7655 8500 or rowena.price@gje.com.

For further information, please see the Government’s surprisingly user-friendly report at: https://goo.gl/JkLhVu

[1] UK Investment in Intangible Assets: Report for NESTA:https://www.nesta.org.uk/sites/default/files/1402_working_paper_-_uk_investment_in_intangible_assets_report_for_nesta.pdf

[2] UK IPO Facts & Figures for 2013/2014:https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/456097/Facts_and_Figures_2015.pdf

[3] OHIM’s Annual Report 2014: https://oami.europa.eu/tunnel-web/secure/webdav/guest/document_library/contentPdfs/about_ohim/annual_report/annual_report_2014_en.pdf