The UK Intellectual property update: what you need to know

While it’s hardly a case of new law for New Year, intellectual property legislation in the UK did receive an update last autumn and 2015 is the year when we’ll see it being put into practice. With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a little look to the amendments first introduced in October 2014 and to give an overview of what they’re likely to mean for businesses.

The Context

In November 2014, Professor Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University was commissioned to review the UK intellectual property framework with a view to promoting growth and innovation within the UK economy. As a digital specialist, Hargreaves paid particular attention to whether the structure was fit for purpose in the online age. Reporting back on his findings in May 2011, Professor Hargreaves made ten key recommendations for changes to UK IP law. These were introduced in the Intellectual Property Act of 2014, and you can read about the changes in full here.

The UK IP changes


Some of the most important changes made were in regards to registered design. Design rights have often been overlooked in favour of the better-known copyright or trademarking, so these updates seek to redress the balance. It is now a criminal offence to copy a design registered in the UK or Europe and those found guilty can be punished with a fine, a prison sentence of up to ten years or both.


To try and encourage resolutions before litigation, those who have a registered design and are considering litigation can ask for a non-binding opinion from the intellectual property office before proceeding. Businesses should be aware that design rights and therefore the associated protection do not automatically lie with them under all circumstances. Where businesses and agencies commission a non- employee designer to work on a project the rights will usually go to the designer unless otherwise agreed and clearly documented.

It has also been made easier to register a design over larger geographical areas with the completion of a single application to the International Bureau of the World International Property Organisation (WIPO).

The introduction of ‘webmarking’ is a new amendment designed to streamline processes for patent owners. A product can now be marked with a hyperlink or URL that leads to a page displaying a patent number, which means the product itself no longer needs to clearly display the patent number in full.

One change relating to the sharing of music has far more everyday implications for the average man or woman in the street. A private copying exception has been introduced for music. The update means that an individual can copy a Cmusic-32859_640D they have bought for their own private collection; they could for instance transfer a CD to their MP3 player. This is something that has technically meant breaching copyright up to this point. This particular update has caused a lot of controversy with many in the music industry claiming the cost of private copying isn’t factored into the sale price of CDs and thus the practice should not be allowed.

The Benefits

Many of the updates are designed to lower expense or potential expense for businesses – by lowering the number of applications that need to be completed for registration there will be less need for companies and individuals to pay for translations of applications. Allowing the IPO to share opinions pre-litigation with those who have registered designs should encourage more companies to register designs in the first place, particularly as the protection they’ll receive has been brought more into line with copyright and trademarks. Furthermore, this non- binding consultation should prevent costly litigation cases from being brought that are unlikely to have a positive outcome for those with registered designs.


Finally, the private copying exception brings into law something that most of the population were already doing, though the European Copyright Society is currently campaigning for uniform copyright rules across Europe, which may bring further changes.

Do you have any questions about these updates and the impact they could have on your business or services? If so, get in touch for a free consultation.