More Monopoly Madness: UK Criminalizes The Copying Of Registered Designs
from the exactly-wrong dept
One of the reasons that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was opposed and defeated in 2012 was that it included an attempt to require criminal sanctions for "willful trademark counterfeiting or copyright or related rights piracy on a commercial scale" (pdf), where "on a commercial scale" was so loosely defined that it risked applying to even trivial infractions. This is part of a continuing push around the world to bring in harsher penalties for infringements of intellectual monopolies, particularly in the realm of copyright.
It seems that even the more obscure domains are affected: the Comparative Patent Remedies blog has a post about new legislation in the UK that criminalizes the copying of registered designs. Written by Professor Sarah Burstein of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, the post is highly critical of the move, and takes apart the claimed reasons for bringing in this new law. In particular, she demolishes the "parity" argument -- that criminal penalties are available for copyright infringement, and so they should be for registered design infringement too. As Burstein points out:
Different IP rights are supposed to protect different things for different reasons; therefore, it is not at all unfair or illogical to provide for different remedies. The parity argument also appears to assume that criminal sanctions for copyright and trademark infringement are appropriate and well-justified -- something that is by no means clearly established.
After addressing the other supposed justifications for criminalization, Burstein concludes as follows:
overall, the addition of these new criminal sanctions to UK law appears to be an ill-advised and unfortunate development. As many opponents (who included UK companies, IP practitioners and IP professors) noted, there is a significant risk that these sanctions will chill legitimate design innovation.
In other words, extreme measures supposedly brought in to support the design industry and its creativity may end up damaging it.