Bombus single heart

Bombus original

Nostalgic copy

Nostalgic lookalike

In a cease & desist letter from ACID Accredited law firm, McDaniel & Co, Kelly Hudson confirmed that, “Bombus asserted the Copyright and Design Right protection available in their products and made clear they were willing to take action over the alleged infringements. Following pre-action correspondence with Nostalgic Heart, a successful settlement was reached ensuring the removal from sale of the products concerned”.

Following the settlement, Amelia Coward said, “Bombus are determined to protect their market share and take whatever action necessary, particularly as we have built up a reputation for such unique products. We have made a statement to the industry that infringement of our IP rights will not be tolerated. ”

Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID said, “Increasingly, more and more design-led companies are flexing their muscles when they discover look alike products and Bombus are no exception. The message is crystal clear, IP infringement doesn’t pay and reputations can be ruined”.

View the Bombus website

Talking Tables ‘Something Magical’ Image Hundreds of printed brochures have been destroyed following a legal challenge by ACID (Anti Copying in Design) member Talking Tables when they discovered another wholesaler, CSC Imports, selling markedly similar products through advertising and promotional material which was strikingly similar to their own Christmas feature promotional image.

In a cease & desist letter from ACID Accredited law firm, McDaniel & Co,  Taking Tables asserted the copyright protection available in the image and made clear they were willing to take action over the alleged infringement in order to safeguard their brand. After engaging in pre-action correspondence with the other party, and making clear there was a very real possibility of litigation, a successful settlement was reached ensuring the removal of the image from CSC Imports advertising and the destruction of nearly 1800 printed brochures.

Following the settlement, Kelly Hudson of McDaniel & Co. said, “The issue related to use of a promotional photograph, to which Talking Tables had put significant effort into creating.  Action was important in this case as allowance the use of such similar images can be a signal to other businesses that Talking Tables would accept copying”.

Mark McCormack, Managing Director of Talking Tables, said, “Talking Tables invest significantly in design and new product development and take infringement of our IP very seriously. We are pleased with this outcome and will continue to monitor the market for further infringements.”

Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID added, “In publicising this settlement, market leaders Talking Tables are sending out a clear anti copying message to all their competitors.”

ACID Lobby logoThe Government today announced new measures which aim to help SME’s better protect their intellectual property and grow their businesses. Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said: “The intellectual property of SME businesses is vital to their future economic growth and success. Their innovative ideas and creations can be worth billions of pounds so it is essential that we provide them with the support they need to protect and enforce their rights. The package of measures outlined today will allow the Intellectual Property Office to build even stronger links with businesses, giving them the confidence to trade both in the UK and abroad.”

Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID added, “This is a really positive step, we have been lobbying for the last decade for improvements in IP support for SME’s and this has paid off. The pace is hotting up with a whole raft of new support mechanisms. This valuable engine of the economy needs real action to replace previously rather empty words!”

ACID has been working with the UKIPO since The Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth on their recommendations that the Intellectual Property Office should produce plans to improve the accessibility of the IP system to smaller companies within the design sector. The Government accepted these recommendations and is now in the process of implementing them.

Key actions announced today by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) include:

  • A new online business advisor training tool
  • An online register of advisors to help businesses find the right advisor for them quickly and easily
  • Consulting businesses, business advisors and IP specialists about how lower cost IP legal and commercial advice can be provided
  • Offering free intellectual property audits to businesses through routes such as the Technology Strategy Board
  • Enhancing existing schemes such as mediation to provide a more efficient dispute resolution service that can prevent potentially costly legal cases

The previous improvements include: A small claims process to be created for cases under £5,000 will be introduced at the Patents County Court for cases involving copyright, trademarks and designs; Launching Ipsum, an online patent service that could save UK business nearly £100,000 per year. It removes the cost to businesses of requesting patent documents; instead they will now be available for free online; Re-running the Fast Forward Competition which encourages Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs) to work together with businesses to share research, innovation and intellectual property (IP).  £760,000 is available for winning bids to invest in research and knowledge transfer projects that have the potential to create new companies or services; and Supporting the Technology Strategy Board to develop an IP strategy for the new technology and innovation centres.

View the IPO Press release

Burgon & Ball Image

Burgon & Ball planter

Greentree willow basket

Greentree Garden's lookalike product

Proteam (UK), Solus Garden & Leisure, Apollo and Greentree Garden products ALL successfully challenged by Burgon & Ball in a massive IP clampdown!

Gardenware industry leaders and ACID (Anti Copying in Design) members Burgon & Ball are no strangers to copying and the latest to receive the weight of Burgon & Ball’s IP message were Proteam, (UK), Solus Garden & Leisure, Apollo and Greentree Garden products. In alleged design right infringements Burgon & Ball secured signed undertakings that the quartet will not produce further look alike products and packaging. They also ensured delivery up of tens of thousands of pounds worth of stock.  In the case against Proteam, Burgon & Ball were forced to issue proceedings in the High Court to protect their rights under Claim No: HC11C01136, eventually settling with the administrators as Proteam had been placed into administration. The look alikes were various products and planters in the Burgon & Ball’s Home Allotment range.

“The cease & desist letters outlined the alleged UK and EU unregistered design right infringements and successful settlements were reached in signed undertakings. Significant amounts in legal costs were also received and the delivery up of the goods” said Kelly Hudson of ACID Accredited law firm McDaniel & Co who dealt with all the cases.

Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID said, “Burgon & Ball have a consistent IP strategy to ensure that their growth is not impeded by the emergence of lookalike products. The Home Allotment Range is one of their best sellers and so immediate action upon discovery of the infringement minimised any potential damage to their market.”

Heather Culpan, MD of Burgon & Ball said, “We began manufacturing in 1730 and employ 45 people whose jobs are reliant on the company’s continued growth. Any further erosion of growth by IP infringement could have a significant impact on the company’s success so this is why our consistent and unhesitating IP strategy will be to challenge those who try to take the fast track to market by copying”.

  • I understand that if I accuse someone of copying my work that they could sue me.  How can that happen?

Depending on what you accuse somebody of, the law allows the person accused to take action against you, for what is known as a “groundless threat”.  This can happen where there are Patents, Trade Marks and Designs involved.  There are no groundless threats for Copyright and for Passing Off.  However there are two other areas that you need to be aware of; that is interfering with somebody’s business and defamation.

If you make your statements public, such as writing to suppliers or posting things on the internet, and if those statements are wrong but it still affects the reputation of the Defendant, they can sue you for unlawful interference in their business and for defamation.

If you are going to make allegations of copying then you need to make sure that those allegations are justified.

  • So how can I prove that someone has copied me?

If it is somebody that you are doing business with then you should make sure that you have a paper trail.  If you have sold goods to them, for instance, then there will be invoices, order forms and e-mails.  If you are doing a pitch to somebody, make sure that you at the very least have letters and keep copies showing the accused has had access to your Designs.  You should consider using the ACID Safe Pitch Kit or at least a confidentiality agreement.  If you are sending items electronically you could also use the ACID IP Tracker.  These steps will help you prove that the accused has seen your work. It is also good practice to keep contact details for everyone that has visited your stand at a show or exhibition.

  • I have been accused of copying someone but it is just a coincidence.  Does this make a difference?

Well yes it does.  In order to prove a case for unregistered rights infringement there has to be proof of copying.  Similarities by themselves may not be enough.  For instance if you and I both take a photograph from the same place of the same scene we have not copied each other but the photographs will be more or less identical.  If you are creating your own Designs you need to keep evidence of how you did it.  Story boards, sketches, sources of inspiration all to show how you went from the concept to the final article without copying someone else’s work. It would be a good idea to send this information to the ACID Design Data Bank too.

  • How do I check to see if someone has already created a similar Design to my latest idea?

Well the obvious answer is to do an internet search which will show you what is currently available.  However, this is time consuming and not fail safe.  Unfortunately there is no central database of unregistered designs at this time.  However, with regard to Registered Designs, you could consider searching the various Intellectual Property databases at the Intellectual Property Office in the UK or at OHIM for European registrations. There are other national offices worldwide that can also be contacted – it depends how much time and energy you wish to put into market research.

  • All my Designs can be seen on my Website.  How do I stop the images being downloaded or copied?

These days this requires more of a practical solution than a legal answer.  All websites can now be created with ‘copy protection’ and you should discuss this with your web developer or IT support team.  If you do not have this copy protection then you should consider watermarks for your pictures and you should certainly not allow people to download without leaving their details.  If you have a website policy which includes a mandatory log in and registration system before access to your images is granted it may also help to prevent your images being downloaded without your permission.  You should clearly show a Copyright notice, the ACID intellectual property statement and the Member of ACID logo, which can have a strong deterrent effect.  Clear website terms and conditions can also act as deterrents for people who copy.

Chinese Delegation MeetingAt an event held at the University of West London on the 17.11.11 at the request of the People’s Republic of China, Dids Macdonald, Vice-Chair of The Alliance against IP Theft and CEO of ACID (Anti Copying in Design) and Jennifer Castoldi, ACID’s Development Director gave a comprehensive presentation on UK design issues to the 25-strong Chinese delegation. The delegates were all senior directors or influencers of a Chinese Government research programme.

The delegation were on an information gathering exercise, specifically looking for examples of the way intellectual property in all its various forms is protected in the UK and the extent of  the effect of IP theft on businesses. Their main objectives were to get a good grasp of best practice in the UK and consider whether this is something appropriate for use in China.

Amongst their other objectives was to find out the current government position on design issues, to hear ACID’s views on current priorities and responsibilities, and to understand ACID’s business model. Primarily they wanted to hear from ACID about the effect of IP theft on design-led sme’s and how the organisation tackles various IP infringement issues.

The invitation from the Chinese Delegation was sent to The Alliance against IP Theft, to which ACID has strong ties. Other presentations that took place during the 2 day event included the Publishers Association Copyright Infringement Portal  (a global automated search, and cease and desist notification service for books, newspaper and magazine publishers), as well as an overview of the Alliance against IP Theft from Director General Susie Winter.  Presentations also encompassed information about the Enforcement Policy Council from Chris Oldknow of Microsoft Europe on counterfeit software and from the UK music industry and copyright, and the relation between IP and growth in emerging markets.

Expressing thanks to the senior representative Mr Li Jianguo, Head of the Chinese Government Delegation, Dids Macdonald said, “We hope that this is the beginning of on-going and formative dialogue with the Chinese Government to work together collaboratively and positively to raise awareness about the importance of best practice across all aspects of IP issues in support of the creative industries globally”. Macdonald continued, “I am encouraged that through the Alliance against IP Theft, ACID and other key organisations were selected by the Chinese government to be invited to demonstrate ways in which heuristic solutions and business models can help various different sectors in different ways.”

Responding, Mr Li Jianguo, Head of the Chinese Government Delegation said, “ACID is an excellent example of an organisation providing an effective conduit between government and industry on design IP issues”.

SME Access to Small Claims IP Court set for 2012

After over a decade of representations to Government to improve access to a cost and time effective framework to address IP infringement issues for small businesses, ACID is delighted that the Government has confirmed today that a new small claims service will be introduced at the Patents County Court to give SME’s easier access to deal with copyright, patents, trade marks and design infringement. The Government announcement states;
“Currently, small firms are often put off enforcing their Intellectual Property (IP) rights by high costs. The new process will limit fixed costs and allow damages of up to £5,000 per case. New figures produced today by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) estimate that around 150 firms will benefit from the service every year, providing an annual boost to UK business of £350,000.”

The recommendation for a small claims service, made in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth was supported by ACID.  However, ACID believes that the Government figure of just 150 firms potentially bringing cases through the new system seems unrealistically low in terms of the infringement cases it hears about on a daily basis.

Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID commented “This is a significant step forward to support small businesses in their continuous battle against copyists but it will only work effectively if the system itself is user-friendly and free from cumbersome bureaucratic and legal process complications. For the majority of UK’s 232,000 design community who have less than 4 employees and find it cost prohibitive to pursue legal action this will be a welcome initiative. We hope it will act as a deterrent against copying and provide a boost for growth and development. It is further good news, following the previous announcement of a separate fast track Patents County Court system, that smaller designers and innovators now have an improved legal system to protect their intellectual property rights and business interests.  I would like to thank those that contributed their experiences to the ACID submission to the Hargreaves Review and we hope that our latest submission to the Government’s Call for Evidence on Design will continue to bring about design law reform in other areas, chiefly addressing the disparity between copyright and design right.”

Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said: “We hope to have the new system in place by this time next year”.

Dear ACID members

We need your help to affect positive change in new UK design policy!

As a result of the compelling submission from ACID (and other groups) to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property, the creation and shaping of new design policy has been brought to the forefront as one of its top 10 IP priorities with Government endorsement from the Prime Minister.

Since then, The ACID team has been collaborating with its diverse network within the design community to help the UK Intellectual Property Office gather the right sort of evidence to influence and shape future policy to support design – a critical contributor to the UK economy – 2.4% or £33 billion at the last count! This is why I am writing to you for your input by completing the UKIPO questionnaire. It will only take a few minutes of your time and can be completed on the UKIPO website

ACID Requests!

In addition, to strengthen the ACID main submission and recommendations, please would you help us by sending your case study evidence, this is a unique opportunity and it will only happen with your collaboration. We need your own examples of copying issues – real, hard evidence to support the case for policy improvements. The UKIPO will subsequently make their recommendations to Government. Please used the attached document as a guide.

Please send these to dawn.perry@acid.uk.com or directly to dids.macdonald@acid.uk.com

The ACID team has spent the last 10/15 years helping to ensure that design’s voice is heard on IP issues and now, through a united approach, we can influence real change. It is the first time that design is included as a mainstream Government recommendation and depending upon the strength of the case we can put forward, there will be a full consultation prior to an opportunity for potential legislative change in 2013. Questions are already starting to be asked in Parliament on design IP issues.

On behalf of us all at ACID and the wider design community, we very much welcome your support and would appreciate your responses by 7th November so that we can submit them by 11th November. We would personally welcome any further thoughts you may have on strengthening our case so please do pick up the phone or send us an email

Best Wishes

The ACID team

ACID Lobby logoParliamentary ActivityDesign has moved up on Government’s radar following the Hargreaves Review on Intellectual Property to which ACID submitted a compelling case for policy reform. There has been a recent flurry of questions tabled and answered by Ed Davey, The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills during Question Time at the House of Commons:

Q – Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills whether he plans to bring forward proposals to provide design the same legal protection as copyright

A – Mr Davey: The Government broadly accepted the recommendations of the Hargreaves review of intellectual property and growth, in particular, that policy should be evidence based. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has launched a ‘call for Evidence’ on design intellectual property (IP), which, together with an online survey, will help us identify changes to the designs IP framework that users of the system think are now needed

Q – Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills when he expects his proposed copyright small claims jurisdiction to be in place

A – Mr Davey: The Government are examining the business case for the introduction of a small claims track in the patents county court. We intend to report on progress this autumn. Subject to an appropriate business case being established, the Government would look to implement the change as soon as possible thereafter, hopefully in 2012

Q – Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what research his Department has (a) evaluated and (b) commissioned to quantify the effects of design infringement on small businesses.

A – Mr Davey: In September 2011 the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) published the results of independent research into design economics, which added to existing evidence about the difficulties faced by small businesses seeking to protect design. Further research is now under consideration, while other work by the IPO—a ‘call for evidence’ on design IP, together with an online survey will help identify potential solutions.

In addition to the above, Chi Onwurah asked a Parliamentary Question on the Digital Economy Act, which has been answered by Ed Vaizey

Chi Onwurah: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what statutory instruments he plans to lay before the House under the provisions of the Digital Economy Act 2010; and when he expects to lay each such instrument before the House.

Mr Vaizey: The Government will be submitting two statutory instruments to the House over the coming period to take forward the online infringement of copyright provisions within the Digital Economy Act 2010. The first, which is currently under consideration under the terms of the technical standards directive, sets out the way in which the costs of the provisions will be shared by industry. The second will be an order setting out the initial obligations code. We would expect the instruments to be laid before both Houses in the first quarter of 2012.

CEO Dids Macdonald with Mr Guriqbal Singh Jaiya, WIPO Director of SME Division and Jeremy Philpot EPO Innovation

CEO Dids Macdonald with Mr Guriqbal Singh Jaiya, WIPO Director of SME Division

Following an invitation from the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) sponsored by the European Patent office (EPO) to a two-day SME and IP event held in Munich last week, Dids Macdonald CEO of ACID took the opportunity to raise awareness of the extensive use of unregistered and informal IP rights by the creative industries in the UK. Statistics from around Europe reinforced the fact that the UK is not alone in the distinct lack of formal IP registrations to support their business models.

Representatives from many national IP offices and other relevant institutions in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shared their experiences in work being undertaken to help raise awareness about the significance of IP training for those involved with training the intermediaries who interface with SME’s in business mentoring. “Train the IP trainers effectively” was one of the key messages being discussed by delegates. Access to the EPO IP4inno website, which is an excellent site offering training modules for those involved in IP mentoring. The ip4inno project is funded by the European Commission as a part of the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Its main aim is to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) enhance their understanding and use of intellectual property rights with a view to promoting innovation and competitiveness in line with the European Commission’s Lisbon goals.

Dids Macdonald, talking about ACID experiences emphasised the importance of providing one to one IP clinics on a wide variety of subjects, access to expert help at the end of a telephone and a proactive approach to communication of an IP strategy both internally and externally through the supply chain. Speaking at the event, Dids said, “The UK comprises of many micro and small businesses and designers account for approximately 232,000 but the majority of them have less than 4 employees. As such, many small firms are isolated and IP law can seem very complex, so it is important to move towards uncomplicated user friendly access to practical IP help and information”. Dids introduced ACID’s latest self-help tool for businesses sending confidential information by email, the IP Tracker. A simple to use cost effective tracking of confidential IP content to third parties. This works in harmony with ACID’s Design Data Bank which holds approximately 300,000 copies of members’ designs.

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