Copyright: Is your business on the right track?

Patrick Tedstone, Commercial Litigation Specialist

Patrick Tedstone is a Commercial Litigation Specialist and runs ORJ Solicitors from its base in Stafford. Here Patrick talks about how businesses can protect their Copyright.

Previously, I wrote an article about intellectual property (IP), in particular the fundamental importance of Trade Marks to the value of a business. Whilst it generated a lot of interest, I found it surprising how few people understand its basic principles.

IP refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols or names and images used in commerce. It is the essence of design to make things easier or more productive to use, more efficient to make, or perhaps just more aesthetically pleasing to sell.

Innovative manufacturers who create new designs benefit from what is known as design right. It’s similar to industrial copyright and can apply to all or any part of a product, even a modified or updated version.

Even when new industrial designs are not formally registered, the right to not have them copied lasts for five years, and swift legal action can bring a competitors supply chain to a standstill if plagiarism occurs.

Design Right can be enhanced by registration, the most important enhancement is the extension of the right for up to 25 years. Registration, which is inexpensive, is therefore important for a product with a long life span.

Recently, ORJ successfully defended the registered and unregistered design rights of Whitby Morrison, the iconic ice-cream van manufacturer based in Crewe. Every element of the claim was upheld; including authorship, originality, similarity and copying, and resulted in £1.1m of the defendants’ assets being frozen.

The trial gained national attention as it was one of the few recent cases in which a registered design right infringement has been upheld. The case gave significant guidance to many features of the law of design right. If Whitby Morrison had not protected their IP by registration and court action, the consequences would have been incalculably damaging to their business.

If you have a product or brand image that you value, then I urge you to look after your interests and take advice on what your rights are, and how they may be enhanced or otherwise protected. It’s often easy and cost-effective.

Patrick Tedstone is Managing Partner at ORJ Solicitors in Stafford.  If you have a copyright or an intellectual property dispute contact ORJ. Alternatively you can call us on: 01785 223440

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