How to protect your Jewellery Designs (Intellectual Property)
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
What is Intellectual Property (IP)?
This term refers to anything created from your thoughts, any kind of artistic or literary work, in real terms your creative work, designs or ideas.
The Intellectual Property (IP) Act dated 1st October 2014 (UK only), added more power to enable creatives in the UK to legally defend their exclusive right to own the intangible assets of their creative work, ie their valuable designs.
In simple terms it is designed to help you protect your registered designs from copying (theft).
- It should be noted although protection is automatic it is NOT for an unlimited time span, see below for details.
Unregistered designs are protected
The UK Government has made a provision for automatic design protection to stop other copying your designs; however there is not an unlimited timeline.
- You can protect a design for longer if you need to extend the timeline provided your design meets the eligibility criteria.
Details here https://www.gov.uk/register-a-design
How long are your Designs automatically protected for?
There are different types of unregistered design/product. How long you’re protected for depends on the type of design.
Shape and configuration: The shape and configuration (how the parts are arranged) of a 3-dimensional objects is automatically protected in the UK for whichever ends first of:
· 10 years after it was first sold
· 15 years after it was created
This is known as ‘Design Right’.
You must allow other people to use your design if they ask during the final 5 years of protection. This is known as a ‘licence of right’.
You may be able to vary this timeline, full details about how to do this are here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vary-licence-of-right-terms-by-design-right-or-copyright-owner
The appearance of a product is protected in the UK for 3 years from the date you make your design public. This is known as ‘supplementary unregistered design right’ (or ‘continuing unregistered community design’ IF if you made your design public in the UK or the EU before 1 January 2021.
The appearance of a product can be 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional and includes its: Shape; Colours; Texture; Materials; Ornamentation
Record your Designs
Taking a photo of your design development and sketches, sign and date the pages and take a photo of each page to create a digital record is good practise. Emailing the images to yourself will prove the date you recorded the design. This type of documentation can be used if you later need to prove when you created the design. It is recommended that important designs be registered independently with ACID the Anti-copying in Design organisation.
Intellectual Property (IP) on a design remains yours even if it is for a commission sale.
Full details are outlined here https://www.gov.uk/intellectual-property-an-overview
Employed or Self employed Jeweller?
If you are self-employed
You own the intellectual property of your work or designs even if the work was commissioned by someone else.
You should ensure any contract you are asked to sign for freelance design work covers this area of ownership
Note of Caution
You can include the design/product Intellectual Copyright in a work contract (Give someone the right of ownership) however if you do this you should consider additional remuneration may be applicable because once you pass over Intellectual Copyright (IP) ownership you cannot use the design or create the works again without permission (which may be at a cost) from the new owner of the design IP. This could be a costly mistake if a design has the potential to be a commercially profitable for you in future.
If you are an employee
If you undertake design work as part of your employment you won’t /don’t own these designs because they are classed as something created as part of your work product.
IMPORTANT The information provided in this article is in brief for general guidance only and is a synopsis of the information about Intellectual Property provided on gov.co.uk
Full details and legal information about Intellectual property rights can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/intellectual-property-an-overview
Think you may be a victim of Jewellery Design Copying?
1. ACID (Anti Copying in Design) is a non-profit membership organisation who particularly specialise in advising creatives how best to legally protect their registered and non-registered designs. In addition it raises awareness and actively promotes respect for intellectual property.
2.The Federation of Small Business offers legal advice to it's members.
BLOG - About the author
Dawn Meaden-Johnson is the Director and Founder of The Bespoke Jewellery Training Company. She has over 25 years’ experience working in the Jewellery Industry including at Signet Group Retail Jewellers and almost 10 Years at Birmingham City University School of Jewellery during which time she has worked extensively with national and international clients whilst managing their Short Course Programme project.
Dawn is also an experienced jewellery business specialist mentor for Jewellery Graduates and Designer Makers.
A graduate Silversmith of Birmingham School of Jewellery, Dawn still occasionally creates limited edition contemporary jewellery.
- Email Dawn at firstname.lastname@example.org