Patently clear

Patently clear

The 1st October 2014 saw a number of changes to patent and copyright laws in the UK.  Following extensive consultation and having taken into account the rise in digital media, the UK Intellectual Property office has taken steps to simplify regulations which were considered to be over-complex and out of date.

The new regulations, which were set down in the Intellectual Property Act 2014 and in changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, include some small but significant changes which should benefit both large and smaller businesses.  However, businesses do need to be aware of the changes as they may affect contracts, attitudes and assumptions and online/offline material.  The changes include:


In the past, detailed information about patents had to be clearly marked on the product.  This may have included whether a patent had been granted or applied for, the patent number and the country of application or patent.  From 1st October all you need to include is a web address which links to a page which clearly shows the relevant information.

This will not only save businesses the time and cost of re-printing or re-tooling when patent information changes, it will also help members of the public to clearly access up to date information in respect of the project.  Interestingly, the IP Office cautions against relying on QR codes as these are not universally accessible to the public.

Alongside the other changes the Legislative Reform (Patents) Order which comes into force at the same time enables businesses to “use a patented product, when carrying out medicinal product assessments.”


The most important change here is that in future, unless a contract states otherwise, “the owner of a commissioned design will now be the designer and not the commissioner.”  In effect this means that unless you are in an employer/employee relationship, the freelancer or design studio which creates the design retains the IP rights to that design.  Businesses which frequently sub-contract design work will need to ensure that contracts are changed or they could face having to pay ongoing licence fees or have their right to use a design taken away.

The new regulations also clarify the position in respect of pre-registered designs as well as making it a criminal offence to intentionally copy a registered design.


The popular headline-grabbing measure in the copyright field was that limited use of copyright material could be used without permission for the purpose of parody, caricature and pastiche but there are a number of other important changes.  These include the right to copy work for text and data mining research purposes, the right to copy work to provide disability access and for education.

Members of the public are also now permitted to make copies for personal use, such as copying a CD onto an MP3.  There is also a greater freedom to quote the works of others, subject to sufficient acknowledgement.


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