From 28 April 2016, furniture designs in Britain will be protected from unlicensed manufacture for 75 years – extending the current 25 years by an additional 50.
Previously in the UK, the copyright in a creator's work held for 25 years from his or her death – during which time manufacturers could buy licenses to put the designs into production. The licensees can then make limited editions, before mass-producing the official licenced item. But after a quarter of a century, anyone could produce a design-classic lookalike piece of furniture.
Now Britain is bringing its own copyright laws on furniture design into line with our European counterparts – something that was meant to be happening in 2020, but has been brought forward after representations from the licensees, as well as the estates of deceased designers. The measure also grants designers the same protection as that enjoyed by plastic and graphic artists, and gives them rough parity with writers, musicians, broadcasters and film-makers and other protected pieces of work.
Manufacturers and retailers of copy items have a 6-month amnesty until the end of October 2016 to cease production and dispose of furniture currently made and stocked.
In this ground-breaking move, from October under the new legislation, manufacturer’s producing and retailers selling unlicensed copies will be liable to fines up to £50,000 and jail terms of up to 10 years.