UK closing loophole on furniture replicas
In Denmark, as in most of the EU countries, furniture and other industrial designs are protected in 70 years after the death of the creator. In the UK, however, there is a particular rule in the copyright legislation, which determines that industrial designs produced in more than 50 copies are only protected for 25 years from the initial advertisement of the product. This means that popular designer furniture can legally be copied and sold in the UK decades before any other countries within the EU. Due to the rules on free movement of goods and services within the EU, consumers from all over EU are able to buy replica furniture from the UK and have it shipped to their home state. The British rules therefore have quite the impact on the European furniture market.
The European Court of Justice has determined that the limited protection in the UK is a violation of the EU legislation, and since 2013, the British lawmakers have been working on regulating UK’s copyright act in order to obtain coherence with the rest of the EU. In 2015, it was decided that the 25-year rule should be abolished and that the period of protection should be raised to 70 years – but only a couple months later, the British government changed their mind and went back to the drawing board.
The tale of the UK’s limited copyright protection has become quite the page turner – but now it seems we may get an ending to the story. The British government has now decided to abrogate the 25-year rule and will instead adopt the same 70-year rule as the rest of the EU operates with. Originally, a transition period of 5 years were agreed upon, so that the changes would not come into effect until 2020, but now it looks like the changes may come into effect some time in 2016. This is done in an effort to act in accordance with the general principle of proportionality, which determines that no legislation must go beyond what is necessary.
When the changes come into effect, products, that used to be covered by the 25-year rule, will now be protected in 70 years from the death of the creator, and the golden days of British replica furniture will come to an end. The furniture being copied today will once again be protected under the copyright act, and the manufacturing and sale of replica thereof will therefore be illegal.
The exact date for when the changes come into effect is yet to be determined – but it is expected that manufacturers and retailers will have 6 months to sell their stock.
By Mia Storm