The Intellectual Property Act 2014 received Royal Assent earlier this week, so is now enacted, but has not yet been brought into effect. It will be brought into effect by statutory instrument, probably in October.
The Act is a rag-bag of detailed changes to the UK law of unregistered design right, registered designs, patents, and copyright, which the UK IPO considers will “modernise” the law. The UK IPO’s summary of those changes can be found here.
Only a few of those changes are of direct interest to this non-contentious IP lawyer, mainly the following:
- To make the first owner of a commissioned design the designer rather than the commissioner. Under previous (and still current, until October) design laws, the party commissioning a design (ie the client) was the first owner of design right. This change will apply to both unregistered design right and registered designs, and will align the law in this area with the position for copyright. Under UK copyright law, the author is the first owner unless he is acting in the course of his employment. IP Draughts recalls when unregistered design right came in, in 1989, and has always thought it very odd that the rules were different for design and for copyright, respectively. It has only taken the Government 25 years to correct this confusing anomoly! See sections 2 and 6 of the Act.
- To introduce criminal offences for intentional copying of registered designs in the course of a business, and marketing of those copies. See section 13 of the Act.
- To allow patent marking by means of an internet link rather than providing patent numbers on the patented article. This is relevant to the question of recovering damages for infringement. See section 15 of the Act.
- To enable the Secretary of State to make arrangements to establish the Unified Patent Court in the UK. See section 17 of the Act.
- To introduce an exception from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, in the case of certain information obtained from a research programme, so as to allow orderly publication of results at a later date. See section 20 of the Intellectual Property Act.