Having your own creative business can be extremely rewarding, whether its making handmade jewellery or other crafts you get to do the thing you enjoy on a daily basis. Coming up with new designs and experimenting with different ideas to create jewellery that’s representative of your own unique style. It’s this style or uniqueness that attracts customers to buy your items and distinguishes your designs with other designers in the same field. If you have a website which most businesses will these days and you are lucky enough to sell your products online, then you have a global audience who can purchase your wares from all over the world. Although this exposure is great for your business it also has its drawbacks, in that anyone viewing your designs can also borrow steal them for their own gain. What can you do you prevent this? Protecting your intellectual property rights!
What is intellectual property?
There are a great many clever and imaginative people in this world who express themselves through their paintings, jewellery, photography, sculptures, poems, plays, music and architecture etc. Each of these expressions is a result of human creativity where an idea has been used to create something new and original. It’s these physical expressions of our ideas or creations of the mind which are referred to as Intellectual property (IP) and are protected under UK law. This means that any new original design of jewellery or sculpture you create is protected in the UK but it doesn’t mean that the ideas or concepts behind the design are also protected, just the finished physical product.
What does this mean for your business?
It means that all your creative outputs that distinguish your business from others such as your distinctive logo, unique packaging and jewellery designs can all be protected.
Intellectual Property ownership
- IF you are a jewellery designer employed by a company, any designs you create for them are owned by the employer and not the designer. Depending on the contract that you have with your employer it may also mean that any designs created outside of office hours are also the IP of your employer.
- It stands to reason that if you are self employed then you the IP for any of your creations belongs to you.
- If you are a freelance designer then you own the IP and not the client or commissioner unless you have a contract with them that gives them IP ownership.
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There are different ways in which IP is protected:
- Patents – Protect inventions of a scientific nature.
- Copyright – Protects original artistic, dramatic, literary and music works.
- Design Rights – Protects 2d and 3d designs.
Facts about Design Rights (unregistered design right)
- Design rights are automatic as soon as you design a new piece of jewellery, a sculpture or something else your design is automatically protected by design rights.
- Design rights only apply in the UK; they are not a worldwide protection and can last a maximum of 15 years.
- Design rights only apply to designs that are original and not commonplace.
- Design rights enable you to protect the internal and external shape or configuration of a design, but do not cover such things as patterns.
How to protect your design rights
Although any of your designs that conform to the above guidelines are automatically covered in the UK by Design Rights this wont always deter others from copying your work. If you do believe someone has infringed your rights and wish to seek legal action then you need to have proof that someone has actually copied your design and not just produced something that looks like your work. For this reason it’s advisable to: Keep a record and evidence of when a design was first recorded in material form and when it was first made available for sale. Also keep any sketches or plans used throughout the development that helped you get to the final design. Its worth noting on each page of your website that your designs are all protected by design right and copyright law and that legal action will be taken against any form of copying (or something to that effect).
Is there any higher protection available?
If you want to further protect your designs to cover the appearance of a product, resulting particularly from its lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and materials or its ornamentation you can register your designs. You will have to pay to register the designs, but they can then be protected for a maximum of 25 years and should you need to take legal action you won’t have to prove that the designs belong to you.
What happens if someone copies my design?
If you believe someone is infringing your designs then the first thing to do is to send them a carefully worded warning letter. It’s possible that they were unaware of the infringement and even if they were, a warning may be enough to make them stop. A solicitor will be able to help you word the letter if you are unsure and also advise you as to the best course of action. Member of the British jewellery Association or DACS are able to get free advice directly from them regarding IP and protecting your designs.
Further advise about design rights and IP
- Intellectual Property Office – A wealth of information about intellectual property, design rights and how to apply for a design including the forms to download.
- Business Link – A full overview of design rights, and how they can help your business.
- The UK Copyright Service – How to register designs.
- Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) – A not-for-profit visual arts rights management organisation.
- Own IT – Intellectual Property advice for creative businesses.
- Legal advice centre – Free legal advice is available from the Department of Law, Queen Mary, University of London.
Author: Crystal and Glass Beads