ACID Member Alex Craster Ltd produces luxury sustainable trays and hardwood products for leading hotels and restaurantsWhen a former employee left to set up a competing business, calling it ‘Oriel International’, Alex Craster was appalled to see Craster-owned photographs being used on the Oriel International website to sell Butler trays. Craster immediately called the ACID legal helpline and Andrew Lee of ACID Accredited law firm McDaniel & Co. confirmed that this was a clear case of copyright infringement and passing off. He immediately fired off a letter before action which resulted removal of the photographs from Oriel International’s website.


Following the settlement ACID’s CEO, Dids Macdonald, said, “Often people are mistaken in thinking that taking legal action means going all the way to a Court hearing.  This case proves that a letter before action underpinned by the ACID brand can get results quickly, effectively and inexpensively to achieve the desired result”

Craster have been producing exceptional quality trays and hardwood products for leading hotels and restaurants worldwide for over 15 years and each product is crafted from ethically sourced hardwoods, then furnished with top quality lacquers that enhance the character and beauty of the wood. Alex Craster said following the settlement, “We have spent years building up our reputation in what is now a ‘niche market’ successful business.  I will always protect the Craster brand against IP infringement” 

When Ben Atkinson Willes’s grandfather became ill with Alzheimer’s disease he decided that he should use his creative skills to design something that not only could stimulate and trigger his grandfather’s mind to become more active and occupied but might also benefit a growing number of elderly people who suffer from the disease.

Ben’s Puzzles use a unique tested system, researched and designed especially for people of varying abilities and the focus of the design has been for people with Alzheimer’s disease. This new leisure time pursuit is achievable and enjoyable for all, including the carers and relatives who all enjoy using these puzzles made for a mature user.

The set of boxed puzzles form an essential piece of medical equipment for care homes and are made from very durable and washable materials, they have even been designed so that they can be easily managed from a wheelchair. A selection of generic images that sufferers are able to relate to, has given Alzheimer’s patients a sense of achievement and pride in this valuable leisure pursuit.

One of the first things Ben decided to do once he had created Ben’s Puzzles was to obtain a Registered Community Design (RCD) from OHIM so that, in effect, he had a piece of paper, a certificate saying that he owns the designs, thereby creating a monopoly right. Ben commented, “I am now in talks with a major retailer regarding the possibility of working with them closely to market the product amongst care homes and I feel somewhat reassured that I have put “belt and braces” protection around this new collection with an RCD. I also have access to the ACID help lines to talk me through further negotiations with other interested parties”.

Ben, a product and furniture a product design and furniture student at Kingston University has been supported and mentored in this new venture by Professor of Design Hilary Dalke, who said of the project, “These generic puzzle images researched by Ben for use in care homes, meet many needs of the Alzheimer’s disease community, from the sufferers and carers to the relatives who need a more appropriate way of spending their valuable leisure and social time together with mature pursuits”  

Wise words from IP Lawyer Patricia Jones following the recent decision of the High Court in the case of Re Bending Light was a warning to businesses about the importance of renewing registered IP rights on time.

Bending Light Ltd was the proprietor of patent GB 2 342 726 for a “light transmission optical component with degraded crests for reducing flare”.  It failed to pay the renewal fees on time and its patent lapsed.  It applied to the Intellectual Property Office and then to the High Court asking for its patent to be restored.  It said that the company had been in financial difficulties and so did not have the money available to pay the renewal fees.  The IPO and the High Court were unsympathetic.  The court scrutinised Bending Light’s accounts and said that it did have some small surplus funds available but that even if there were no surplus funds Bending Light should have put off its other creditors and prioritised payment of the renewal fees.  The court found that Bending Light had not taken reasonable care to see that the renewal fees were paid and it lost its patent for good.

Patricia Jones,  commenting on the case said, “In the current economic climate it is likely that other businesses will find themselves in the same position as Bending Light.  In recognition of this, the IPO has announced a package of measures to make the protection of IP easier and more affordable.  These include discounts on patent and trade mark application and opposition fees and the introduction of an ‘early assistance’ service for new trade mark applicants.   In a separate move, the European Commission has announced fee reductions for community trade marks that will come into effect during the summer.  Although the application fees for CTMs will be increased by around €150, the registration fee (currently €1000 or €850 if the application is filed electronically) will be reduced to nil.  The reduced registration fee will apply to applications filed before the fee reductions actually come into effect.  Businesses should file CTM applications now to take advantage of this reduction and avoid the increased application fees that will apply from the summer”.

“At a time when budgets are being squeezed businesses should ensure that their IP is not neglected.  IP rights give a business its competitive edge and properly exploited IP can generate revenue.  In the current climate, competitors are less likely to innovate and more likely to infringe.  Now is the time to conduct a strategic review of your IP rights to make sure that they are properly protected, exploited and enforced, maximising their value to your business”.

Nick Kououpias - DMH Stallard

Nick Kounoupias - DMH Stallard

Working closely with Nick Kounoupias, ACID LOBBY’s Chief Legal Counsel and a member of the team at ACID Accredited law firm DMHStallard, the ACID response has been sent to the UKIPO in reply to the consultation on copyright issues which will form the basis of future UK copyright strategy.  As at today’s date there have been responses from 120 organisations or individuals and, according to UKIPO CEO Ian Fletcher, “There is still further work to be done. We want to encourage blue-sky thinking and involve as wide a range of voices in these discussions as possible”. He continued, “The case for prompt action is clear but we must take care to consider these issues properly and to engage fully with stakeholders as our thinking develops. In reality this may mean that Summer 2009 will be too early for the final report on our work and that discussions will continue over the period over the summer period”. Ian Fletcher has also confirmed that SABIP (Strategic Advisory Board on Intellectual Property) has now begin its own work programme in the area of copyright and the UKIPO will work with SABIP so that their work is complementary.   Dids Macdonald commenting on the latest news from the UKIPO said, “Whilst ACID welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the UK copyright debate, I hope this is not going to be a long and protracted consultation process. The challenges facing many SME’s in the face of an increase in copyright infringement are enormous and will not go away unless real importance is given to key issues. ACID has always focused on two key issues – an urgent review and increase in exemplary damages which will act as a real deterrent against copying and Government recognising the importance of intellectual property and “know-how” as a key driver in the road to economic recovery”. The UK creative industries contribute to 10% of GDP and every effort must be made to support those who are part of the creative process.

Patricia Jones, a specialist IP lawyer writes, “The UK Intellectual Property Office (“IPO”) has announced a review of its trade mark and patent application fees and services through public consultation.   This is in line with a decision by EU member states to accept a proposal by the European Commission to cut Community trade mark (“CTM”) application fees by 40%, a move supported by the UK.  Rates of registration of CTMs, UK trade marks and patents have fallen considerably in recent months and through a new regime, the EU and IPO aim to ensure that businesses protect their IP sufficiently during the economic downturn.

CTM Fees

Under the new CTM application regime, the registration fee will be set at zero, as opposed to the current €1000 registration fee (€850 if paid electronically), and the application fee will be slightly increased, from €750 to €900 for online applications and from €900 to €1050 for paper applications.  

It is thought that the CTM fee reduction could be in place by the middle of 2009.  Applications filed before the adoption of the new regime, for which applicants have paid only the application fee, will be exempt from the registration fee previously due.   Applicants should therefore consider filing as soon as possible to make the most of this additional saving whilst avoiding the higher application fee.

IPO Initiatives

The IPO is discussing a range of options and aims to help businesses protect their IP more easily and affordably in the UK, potentially saving them over £700,000 per annum, thus maintaining the UK’s competitive position for businesses looking to protect their IP.

The initiatives being discussed include: introduction of a new ‘early assistance’ service for new trade mark applicants; provision of an e-filing discount for trade mark and patent applicants when applications are filed electronically; and reduction of the fee for opposition to the registration of a new mark by another firm.

This is a reminder to all ACID members who send their designs in to the ACID Design Data Bank that, regrettably, If you do not renew your subscription, your designs will have to be either returned to you or, at your request, destroyed.  If you receive a cease of membership letter you will only have 14 days to send back the questionnaire, stipulating what you wish to happen to your designs.  After that time the designs will be removed from the secure Data Bank awaiting instructions from you. 

The Design Data Bank is a free service where all ACID members can deposit their new designs when relying on unregistered Design right (either UK or EU).  This service does not add to your legal rights but provides third party evidential proof of the design’s existence on the date it is received by the ACID office – therefore providing valuable independent evidence, or “prior art”. 

Under UK unregistered design rights, originators are automatically protected for 10 years.  However, after 5 years a third party may approach you to manufacture the product under a reasonable licence arrangement. Under unregistered Community design rights you are automatically protected for a period of only 3 years  in Europe, from the date the product is first shown on the market.  To rely on these unregistered rights you must be able to prove the date of origination of your design, preferably through an independent third party.

You have 12 months from first marketing the product in which to register a new design with the European Community   After this date you will be unable to do so.  ACID always recommends offical registration if at all possible because the design owner will have monopoly rights and protection for 25 years for a fee, renewable every five years. 

An international nonprofit organization, The Authentics Foundation was started by a group of people who witnessed firsthand the terrible conditions of child labourers making counterfeits in China. The organization is now devoted to raising awareness about exactly where–and how–fake goods are made, and what the dangers are. The Foundation  hope that the My Authentics website will be used as the last stop for product recommendations and discussion.

As part of their policy in highlighting counterfeiting and plagiarism Authentics have interviewed ACID’s CEO Dids Macdonald and two videos are available to watch, amongst My Authentics’ library of over 30 videos on the subject, on You Tube at

The Furnishing Report has announced details of the new ownership of ACID Member Smallbone following the groups previous announcement of the suspension of its shares on the Stock Exchange.

Investor Leo Caplan bought the group, which he believes has the potential to become ‘the leading specialist furniture brand in the world’.  400 jobs will be saved at the company which incorporates Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson Furniture as the two leading brands in the group.