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the giftware association


As we at the Giftware Association receive more and more complaints about copying and design protections, we have formed a strong alliance with ACID who promote anticopying in design, Their CEO Dids McDonald has kindly written us the below article stressing the importance of having and IP strategy.



intellectual property and the basics, first take a few steps….

 Many within the giftware sector find out the hard way about being copied, often when it is too late!  Are you IP Savvy? Have you thought about creating a proactive IP strategy rather than having to react very quickly if you are copied?  Remember! Imitation isn’t flattery if it costs you YOUR business so it’s good to think about your IP. Intellectual capital is the DNA running through most businesses whether macro or micro so it is about your knowledge, know-how and how to protect it to achieve growth. Intellectual property is a property right; so in the same way that you can lease, sell, sub-let, rent or share your home… you don’t want squatting! So it is about permission to use your property and asserting your ownership. And intellectual property in legal terms is about trade marks, your brand, copyright, the written, audio or spoken word or 2D designs, designs whether registered or unregistered and patents for inventions.

Lanka Kade & Wilco

The UK giftware sector is part of a bigger design success story, worth £71.4bn to the UK economy and growing at 10% per year, but most designers are lone, micro or small businesses and so taking legal action, if you are copied, is the luxury of the few. Design matters, from iconic to everyday design is all around us, enriching our lives as consumers, solving problems. Creating a proactive IP strategy to protect your work is essential. Most of the elements of an effective IP strategy really are common sense and low cost”

So, if you don’t have an IP strategy…..



Create one! If you don’t know what do to protect your work you will be ill-equipped if things go wrong! Think about when you are exhibiting, do you really want visitors to photograph your new designs without your express permission? Always have a “No Photography” sign. In the age of social media new ideas, gismos, designs can be across the world in seconds and in production in minutes.


IP isn’t rocket-science; download a little plain old common sense. Become IP savvy, by attending IP events, attending IP workshops seminars and webinars, for example.


Know your design right from your copyright, your trade marks from your patents and understand some of the myths surrounding IP. For example, it is wrong to think that someone can change a design by a certain percentage and it becomes a new design. Be specific, look at what you are designing and think about what rights you need to know about.  Developing and maintaining and growing your brand are critical – so make sure you have registered your trade mark! The Intellectual Property Office is a great resource for webinars and IP tutoring sessions.


Look at the territories in which you trade – ensure you have the right protection and support. For example, if you are trading in China have you registered your design rights? Chinese registrations (design patents) differ from UK in that there is a threshold of global novelty. The UKIPO have appointed IP Attachés in China, South East Asia, Brazil and India and they are a great hands-on resource for useful help and support.

Fiesta Studios &


Think about what makes your company unique and guard your trade secrets as it they were Crown jewels and create confidentiality agreements for sensitive information within terms and conditions of employment. Clarity of IP ownership is critical, particularly if there is an issue. It costs a lot more to disentangle things if there is a dispute if ownership is clear. Not reading the small print makes lawyers rich!


Lock up your IP and unlock growth using ACID’s own, new Copyright & Design Databank which holds copies of over 300,000 designs, so If you have an idea keep it safe, for example a UK or EU registered design is a monopoly right and lasts for 25 years (EU stays the same at the moment and won’t realistically change for at least 2 years. ACID has consolidated the deterrent effect of the ACID Copyright & Design Databank in partnership with PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. We now have a downloadable certificate to prove your IP lodgement, which adds to protection and deterrence.


Corporate Social Responsibility - Think about encouraging an ethos of compliance and respect – if we as designers don’t do it no-one else will! Learning how not to infringe the IP rights of others is critical.


Manage Your Risks! Obvious, but keep looking at the competition, identify who the copyists are and keep an eye out offline and online on major platforms. Having a brand protection and enforcement

Policy for knock offs discovered online is essential. Recently ACID has added to its benefits with an affordable online take down and track down service especially designed for SMEs to take the tiring “legwork” out of pursuing online copied.

Lanka Kade & Wilco


Proof of IP ownership is essential and when you have this don’t forget to always get the right sort of advice – IP lawyers with specialist sector experience, The IPO, The Giftware Association, ACID. But choose battles carefully – never sue on principle. Ask yourself ‘is there a quantifiable loss’ consider the evidence of your design corpus, what is the size of the opponent, can you afford to keep going? Don’t forget, to publicise any settlements such as this will add to the deterrent factor of your brand. No-one likes their name associated with being a copycat so a good naming and shaming exercise can work wonders!


If you don’t want to be copied – shout loudly. Include an IP statement on your website, marketing material product labelling, packaging because it adds to the deterrent aspect of your brand. A simple statement such as “All intellectual property rights are and will remain the property of (insert your name). All infringements will be pursued”. Adding a deterrent logo also helps.

And, lastly don’t forget to think about Brexit! Most UK designers rely on unregistered design right, and potentially, designers will lose IP protection in 28 member states. Crucially if you lose the ability to rely on unregistered EU design you will only be able to rely on UK unregistered design right a much weaker right and you will not have automatic protection in Europe. So please, show your support and email and join the growing numbers of UK designers so that ACID can demonstrate to Government and policy makers the need for the best possible negotiations.




By Dids Macdonald, OBE., CEO of ACID

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