At last SME’s recognised as being in need of improvements in IP support
Following intense lobbying by ACID and other industry organisations, ACID welcomes George Osborne’s statement in the 2011 Budget that the Government will set out a five-year international approach to intellectual property. Good news for SME’s is a commitment on behalf of the UKIPO to improve the range of products and services available to support UK businesses, particularly SMEs, on issues relating to IP. The IPO will also establish a network of attachés covering the key global markets, including China, East Asia and India which are some of the most challenging IP territories for micro firms and SME’s wishing to protect, exploit and commercialise their tradable knowledge.

Many ACID members share the view that UK businesses find it almost impossible to control the unauthorised use of their IP overseas, especially in BRIC countries. The new IP attachés will focus on promoting and protecting UK business interests within host countries, working with local IPR enforcement agencies and providing a focal point for supporting UK businesses with IP-related issues. Government hopes that the benefit of this measure will be felt beyond the digital and creative sector by all businesses that rely on IP.

The Government has confirmed that IP rights produced by the private sector for public sector contracts remain with the party best placed to exploit them. This ensures that, wherever sensible, business can retain their IP to use with other clients and internationally. It will come as no surprise that compelling evidence suggests that this policy has not always been followed. The Government will publish a guide to policy on IP related to public procurement, to raise awareness in the public sector and industry.

Says Dids Macdonald, ACID’s CEO, “I welcome the Government’s raising of awareness about the importance of IP issues in the UK but what is patently missing is any reference to addressing IP enforcement difficulties faced by thousands of micro firms and small businesses in the UK. However, it is encouraging that the Government is going to provide long called for guidelines on public sector IP procurement policy, so that industry can exploit the opportunities for IP whilst it remains with the private sector provider for re-use. This is long overdue and it is hoped that industry standards will also prevail in the procurement of IP in the private sector too.”

The Government expect that the Hargreaves review, due in April 2011, will make recommendations for simplifying payments for copyright materials and freeing up orphan works, and that Government will ‘consider’ these proposals.  The Government will commit to no further broad reviews of the IP rights regime during the lifetime of this Parliament.  There are no proposals for a US-style ‘fair use’ system to be implemented.

ACID Lobby Logo for webAnti Copying in Design’s recent IP poll indicates that 89.7% of designers believe IP infringement to be deliberate and blatant.

Supporting ACID’s submission to the IP Review, ACID Ambassador Sebastian Conran said, “Design is an unsung hero in the UK economy. Original design leverages value, but this takes investment and it needs to be protected”. An independent review into intellectual property (IP) and growth commissioned by the Prime Minister issued a call for evidence in October 2010 on how the IP system can best support growth. Professor Ian Hargreaves, leading the review, said, “We must ensure the UK has an IP system that drives innovation and growth. This review will identify the barriers to growth and, where they exist, work out how to remove them. The review will set out short-term improvements that could be made as well as a long-term vision for the IP system”.

ACID has welcomed the opportunity to respond to the UK Review into Intellectual Property and Growth to raise awareness about, in particular, the difficulties which affect the UK’s designers in accessing hands-on, practical, sector-led IP advice and information to help them maximise, protect and commercialise their IP. There is also the serious issue of the uncertainty experienced by micro firms and SME’s in effectively enforcing IP infringement.

In its comprehensive submission, ACID has used 8 case studies (out of 450+) to highlight the various IP issues affecting micro firms and SME’s within the creative industries. Another area on which ACID has concentrated is the disparity for IP rights owners. Unlike copyright infringement, if a design is stolen no criminal offence has been committed; the designer’s only recourse is under civil action. This gives rise to anomalies and inequality of treatment which are very damaging to hundreds of small businesses and designers across the UK.

Dids Macdonald, ACID’s CEO said, “I believe if design infringement becomes a criminal offence it may change and influence current board strategy in some major high street retailers to think again about condoning product piracy and using the veil of “inspiration” of the innovative products of others to create their own versions for tomorrow’s retail shelves”.

The Intellectual Property Review will report back to the Prime Minister in April 2011.

Read the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Group Letter to Professor Hargreaves

National Bed Federation LogoACID (Anti Copying in Design) has formed a trade association partnership with The National Bed Federation to help raise the profile and value of intellectual property (IP) within the bedding sector. This move is part of an on-going campaign by ACID to actively support trade organisations pan-industry.  Through IP education – how to protect designs and integrate IP as part of a corporate marketing plan – ACID will advise the Bed Federation on IP issues which affect the sector.

Says Jessica Alexander, Executive Director, National Bed Federation, “I am delighted we have been invited to join ACID as a Trade Association Partner.  Intellectual Property infringement is an issue which has affected many members and I hope our new partnership with ACID illustrates our commitment to fighting design theft and raising awareness about the positive aspects of brand protection and commercialisation. The move is timely with the current Review on Intellectual Property commissioned by the Prime Minister and the NBF will be fully supporting ACID’s submission to the Review”.

Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID, said, ‘The National Bed Federation is the 5th trade association to take advantage of ACID’s Trade Associations module.  Our trade partnership scheme is bespoke according to specific market sectors and includes a discounted group membership fee, seminars, tailored IP advice through regular web and newsletter features, standard tender agreements and IP clinics plus over 30 ACID membership benefits including IP legal advice and the use of the free ACID design bank.  I strongly advise any trade association who is committed to design protection and IP education to talk to ACID.”

The winners of the New Design Britain competition were unveiled during an awards ceremony, which took place on 24th January at Design Interiors 2011.

The prestigious jury panel included representatives from ACID, Evening Standard, Fromental and Willis & Gambier. The winners were chosen in four categories: furniture, fabrics, surface coverings and textiles. The Barjis New Rug Design competition represented the flooring section of the show.

The New Design Britain 2011 winning designs are, according to category:

Benjamin Boyce

Furniture – Peg Leg by Benjamin Boyce

Elaine Ng Yan Ling

Surface Coverings – The Clusters by Elaine Ng Yan Ling


Flooring – Coming Home to Roost by Jessica Penrose (on left)

Alex MacMaster

Accessories – Iris lamp pendants by Alex MacMaster

Textiles – Buildings in Cross by Henoc Maketo

Phil Hunter, interiors brand director, who presented the awards, says of the competition: “We are proud to support young design talent by recognising its most gifted representatives. interiors is a great platform for new design, product development and innovation across the interiors spectrum. The fantastic quality of the shortlisted entries, and a great passion behind the designs, gives us confidence about the bright future of the interiors industry.”

Among the competition prizes were an annual ACID membership and internships with Barjis, Ercol, Fromental, Mark Hutchison Furniture and Marks & Spencer. The winner of Barjis New Rug Design will also embark on a week-long trip to China where their winning rug design will be manufactured.
Jennifer Jones also secured a placement at the National Trust, Textile Conservation Studio, thanks to presenting a progress she made from winning the Fabrics category at interiors 2011 to being a winner of the New Rug Design competition at interiors 2011.

The Textile Conservation Studio Manager, Ksynia Marko, said: “We see this as an opportunity for the graduate to come into close contact with historic textiles from which they will gain design inspiration and understanding of textile conservation. We are very pleased to support new designers and commission Jennifer’s designs.”

Benjamin Boyce, the winner of furniture category commented on the award: “The New Design Britain competition is a great opportunity for all the finalists to present their work to the top industry professionals who visit interiors. The show’s been great for us and it’s the best place to make new contacts with both fellow designers and people from big companies who are interested in our projects.”

The New Design Britain competition ran alongside Design Interiors 2011, the largest UK exhibition for the interiors industry. The third edition of the competition will be part of interiors 2012, taking place from 22-25 January 2012. The call for entries opens in May 2011.

Burgon & Ball ImageFollowing a cease & desist letter from ACID Accredited law firm, McDaniel & Co, ACID Members Burgon & Ball have protected their trade mark against infringement by Dutch owned Vanderschoot after discovery of the offending mark. Vanderschoot was using the mark without permission on their own planter, the Salad Planter, a product which was being imported into Garden Centres in the UK.

Shortly after the exhibition, Burgon & Ball discovered that large scale bulb supplier Vanderschoot, were potentially infringing their UK trade mark No: 2487749 for the mark ‘HOME ALLOTMENT’ in class 20 covering in particular ‘Planters of Wood, Planters of Plastics Materials and Planters of Wood and Plastics Materials’. The mark is commonly used on one of Burgon & Ball’s most popular and award winning ranges, the ‘Home Allotment’ range of planters.

Burgon & Ball are well known in the garden ware industry for selling high quality, durable and beautifully designed products. Following the successful settlement, Kelly Hudson of McDaniel said, “Burgon & Ball were determined to protect their market and resolved to take whatever action was required to do so. This matter demonstrates the effectiveness of a cease and desist letter and it will be seen by those within the industry as a key component of Burgon & Ball’s new wider strategy to ensure effective IP protection and enforcement. Growing popularity and a valued reputation mean that Burgon & Ball need to take effective action such as this immediately to stamp out IP infringements.”

ACID’s CEO Dids Macdonald added, “Following Burgon & Ball becoming members at GLEE, an ACID Accredited exhibition, meant that ACID and McDaniel & Co. were able to act quickly when the infrigement arose. Burgon & Ball’s IP message is clear, they will protect their brand at all costs.”

View the Burgon & Ball website

Silver Lining IIHonoury ACID member Adam Aaronson has been at the heart of British studio glass for more than 25 years years and was one of the driving forces behind ACID’s launch as an anti copying organisation some 15 years ago.  Specialising in free blown glass, his work experiments with self-taught methods and painterly techniques including abstract patinas. In recent years Adam has been developing larger scale organic forms within his iconic ‘Landscape’ series.

“I am always fascinated by the ever-changing patterns and colours that are created by the play of light on water. Living beside the Thames, I love watching the river and am completely inspired by its constant response to the changing light.” (Adam Aaronson)

The ‘Reflected Light’ series was developed in early 2011, inspired by the beauty of waterscapes and landscapes, made diverse by the nature of light upon them; creating reflections, abstractions and shadow. Each of Adam’s artwork surfaces is created as a canvas, depicting a shimmering moment of reflection, capturing river and sea, coastline and forest, as light passes over and through. Glass contains its own dynamic of reflection and refraction, and Adam’s work pays the utmost attention to the organic form of each sculpture, celebrating the natural flow and force of molten glass and leaving behind traditional requirements for functionality.

“Aaronson applies layer upon layer of color over the metal leaf, but the reflective under surface endows the works with a subtle luminosity.  The swirling, not-quite-chaotic painterly effects range from Rouault-Soutine-deKooning-like impasto to a granular dispersal of color reminiscent of the atomized color of Monet’s late water lily murals.” (Peter Morrin, Director Emeritus, The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky)

Adam’s glass artwork has been exhibited internationally and at prestigious institutions nationally including Blackwell Arts and Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere, and Broadfield House Glass Museum, Kingswinford, West Midlands. Adam’s work can always be viewed at ZeST Contemporary Glass Gallery, London.

M & S Cutlery BoxAt the close of submissions to the Hargreaves Review, the British Brands Group have used the opportunity to raise awareness about the increasing problem of look alike packaging. The practice is not only misleading to consumers, who are probably unaware that they are being duped but it begs the question, what is main board food chain policy which allows and condones the production of parasitic packaging and an absolute disrespect for the IP of legitimate brand owners? ACID is quite sure that if the CEO of a major food chain was accused of stealing a watch or wallet there would be shock and horror but somehow feel it is OK to steal a brand identity which doesn’t belong to them. Seemingly, producing look alike consumer confusing packaging is without conscience, happily passing off their own products riding on back of another’s hard fought for “look and feel” and brand reputation. 2009 research, according to the British Brands Group, indicated that the more packaging looks like familiar brands, the more likely shoppers are to buy products by mistake and also think the products all come from the same manufacturer. Shoppers expressed a definite preference for clear packaging which did not mislead.

Time to stamp out misleading “parasitic” packaging

The IPKat’s friends at the British Brands Group (BBG), noting that today is the closing date of the Hargreaves IP Review, are marking the occasion by publicising a selection of products which they have found on the market and which, they maintain, are “packaged unnecessarily similarly to popular branded products”. While naturally no self-respecting and sophisticated Kat would ever fall prey to such mimicry, it is common knowledge that approximately 99.9% of ordinary mortals will quite easily be induced to pick up the copycat product which is why “unnecessary similarity” is practised.

The BBG’s media statement is reproduced below.  Note that it does not make wild and emotive allegations of any infringement of trade mark, copyright or design rights, or any passing off (although some or all of those causes of action may be relevant in any given situation).  The language of “unnecessary similarity” is moderate, grown-up and welcome, just as the practice of “unnecessary similarity” is sad, tediously annoying for consumers and intellectually stultifying [If the IPKat were a designer, he would cringe at the thought of having to fill his portfolio with work executed in pursuit of a "get as close to Brand X's product as you can without actually infringing it"].  It invites thought and debate as to the ethical dimension and even the business efficacy of leaning so heavily on the goodwill, the style and the creativity of leading brands.  Says the BBG:

Robert Welch ForkBBG’s Statement “Time to stamp out misleading “parasitic” packaging

The number of products packaged in a very similar way to familiar branded products reveals that this misleading practice continues unabated in the UK. The British Brands Group calls on Government’s independent IP review to press for measures to stamp out “parasitic” packaging which misleads shoppers.

Today, the British Brands Group released the latest examples of products in packaging very similar to popular branded products, to demonstrate the extent of the practice. Gathered from store visits last year, the examples cover a range of products from shampoo to cheese [Merpel was a bit puzzled by this: she's never been confused between shampoo and cheese, though if you keep the latter in the fridge too long it does get hairy ...].

The release of this evidence coincides with the end of the consultation on the independent IP review commissioned by Government. In its response, the Group calls for effective tools to stamp out similar packaging when it misleads shoppers. The last review (Gowers Review, 2006) found that brands are not well protected but its recommendation as to how to address the problem has yet to be implemented five years later.

Research in 2009 indicated that the more packaging looks like familiar brands, the more likely shoppers are to buy products by mistake and also to think the products all come from the same manufacturer. Shoppers expressed a definite preference for clear packaging which did not mislead.

In addition to duping consumers, similar packaging destroys distinctiveness which is crucial for branded products to stand out from the crowd. The original product also faces increased costs and lost revenue, damaging the ability to invest. Meanwhile, the copy benefits from a reputation it does not warrant, increasing its appeal to shoppers and allowing it to command higher prices.

John Noble, Director of the British Brands Group, said, “At a time when household budgets are under such severe pressure, shoppers must have confidence in what they are buying [this is a big problem, says the IPKat: when the imitation product sufficiently resembles the original, its very similarity gives them confidence false confidence]. People do not want the wool pulled over their eyes. Companies should be able to help both themselves and shoppers by stamping out misleading packaging. In the UK this is simply not possible – a situation which is in stark contrast to most other countries. The Government’s IP review offers a perfect opportunity to rectify this.”

The British Brands Group calls on Government to provide companies with effective tools to stop competitors misleading shoppers and destroying the distinctiveness of brands. This would result in better informed shoppers and a better environment in which companies can invest – all at no cost to the public purse”. Connoisseurs of previous IP reviews will instantly recall how the Gowers Review in 2006 almost effortlessly spotted that brands were not well protected from misappropriation, advising that, if new laws on unfair practices weren’t shown to work, the Government should take instant and decisive action by, er, having another consultation.   The new laws mentioned here are found in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, introduced into UK leglslation as the Consumer Protection Regulations 2008 [how fortuitous it is that the previous post on this weblog discusses exactly this legislation, here].

Says the IPKat, brand owners have a huge responsibility for keeping fakes, counterfeits and regular infringements off the streets and off the shelves.  They do this at their own expense and at their own inconvenience, even though they are actually acting as tax collectors for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Excise by ensuring that trade in legitimate goods, which generates value-added tax and corporation tax, supplants unlawful and often clandestine business activities.  Yet, when it comes to tackling the issue of misleading packaging, the self-same companies have not even been granted a civil right of action. Instead, as the BBG points out, enforcement is placed in the hands of such organisations as the Office of Fair Trading and Trading Standards — where resources are already over-stretched. [The mere fact that the OFT and Trading Standards are over-stretched is only a small part of the problem, says Merpel, who believes that the real problem is that they don't have a vested interest in securing an outcome: they keep their jobs whether they solve the unnecessary similarity issue or not, and they don't lose any sleep if they don't achieve anything].

View the British Brands Website Article