The Intellectual Property Act 2014 received Royal Assent on 14 May 2014 and thus brings into force a number of changes to design and patent law in the UK.
One of the main purposes of the Act is to modernise a number of aspects of design law. One of the significant changes is that the infringement of a registered design is now a criminal offence, under certain circumstances. This is when the design has been knowingly copied during the course of business, and without authorisation from the proprietor of the registered design. Accidental copying, however, will remain a civil offence.
A number of other changes have been made to design law to reflect existing corresponding measures in the Patents Act. For example, certain acts, such as using a design privately or for experimental use, will now be exempt from infringement. The Intellectual Property Act also introduces a Design Opinions Service from the Intellectual Property Office to enable an impartial view on the infringement of a design, for example, to be sought. This may enable parties to resolve a dispute without having to resort to costly litigation. A further measure that has been introduced, which already exists for patents, is that a third party, who acted in good faith, will be able to continue to use a design that is subsequently registered by someone else, without fear of being stopped as a result of the registration.
The changes to patent law are relatively minor, but will aid businesses operating in this field. One change is that it will now be possible to mark a patented product with a web address which gives details of the relevant patents, rather than having to provide the specific patent number(s) in question on the product. Another helpful change is that the Patent Opinions Service currently offered by the Intellectual Property Office has been extended to cover a wider range of issues relating to patent validity (not simply on novelty and inventive step), and also the infringement and validity of Supplementary Protection Certificates for medicinal products.