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The IP Bill has its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday 9 December. It contains proposals to make copying of registered designs a criminal offence.

Unless Parliament accepts amendments that the IP professions, industry and some judges are recommending, the bill ‘could result in people being charged with criminal offences and locked up for up to ten years, just for producing a design that looks rather like an existing design,’ says Roger Burt, President of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA).

CIPA’s view is supported by Members of the IP Bar Association, chaired by Henry Carr QC, and which includes some deputy High Court judges. They also argue that the bill should be amended:

‘It is obvious that designers who are exposed to many works may well have a subconscious memory of products the subject of design registrations. To impose a serious criminal sanction on such persons for unintentional copying would be highly oppressive.’

The draft bill would make copying registered designs a criminal act, punishable by up to ten years in prison.

‘If the government is going to make copying registered designs a criminal offence,’ says Roger Burt, ‘it needs to be very careful about the wording of the bill. If it went ahead in its current form, it could affect hundreds of retailers and designers who are not intentional criminals.’

CIPA has been working with other professional and industry bodies to put forward recommendations to change the bill’s wording so that makes only intentional copying a criminal offence. The IP Federation, the CBI and the IP Bar Association have all commented on the Bill to IP Minister Lord Younger and other members of the government, including Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts, as well as to Iain Wright, shadow Business Minister, who will be Opposition lead for the IP Bill when it reaches committee stage next year.

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