‘Prove what you’ve created,’ says lawyer

A leading intellectual property lawyer has urged designers to prove that they’ve created what they claim to have.

Speaking at the kbbreview Retail and Design Conference at kbb Birmingham, Simon Sellars (pictured) of Sipara said: “When an infringement is discovered later on, it becomes a lot of ‘he said, she said’. So, can you actually prove it was you that created it?”

He suggested that keeping a chain of evidence, such as emails, sketches and briefs, is the best way to stay protected.

“So many disputes arise because we can’t prove who brings what to the table, who contributed what and when. If you can be ahead of that curve, you’re in a much better position to protect your designs.”

However, designers do have certain rights that are automatically in place. “As a designer, you have an automatic copyright, which lasts for as long as you live plus an extra 70 years after you pass away. Automatic unregistered design rights in the EU last around three years and in the UK, up to 15 years.”

If an infringement is discovered, Sellars said one of the common mistakes people make is publicly accusing others.

“Sending an email or Facebook message is a bad idea. If you go around accusing people of copying and it is not true, they may have the right to sue you for making unjustified threats of infringement.”

Another critical mistake designers make, according to Sellars, is “people often think that if they change 5-10% then that is OK. That is the worst thing I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t make any difference, if you put both designs next to each other would, they end customer think they looked exactly the same? If the answer is yes, then it’s a problem”.

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