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Baroness Delyth Morgan - Anti Copying in Design (ACID) anniversary event
Design Council, London - 9 April 2008

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I am delighted to be here with you this evening to celebrate the tenth anniversary of ACID. The importance of design and the creative industries to Britain has grown over the past decade and the Government is committed to fostering new ideas by protecting intellectual property. The recent launch of our comprehensive plan for support for the creative industries, 'Creative Britain: New Talents for the New Economy' establishes this as part of the mainstream of economic strategy.

We in Government are committed to providing effective support to safeguard the intellectual property rights of those who make a living from their creativity, to ensure the long term economic viability of our creative enterprises.

Last year, a report by the Work Foundation looked at 13 sectors within the entertainment and design industries, and found that cultural exports from Britain, are greater than from any other country. According to the findings, Britain's creative sector employs 1.8 million people and makes up 7.3 per cent of the national economy.

The report found that international clients were relying on British creative talent within the country's advertising, design and architecture firms like never before, spending up to 2bn a year with UK agencies.

The growth and success of our creative industries is something I am proud to celebrate.

Over recent years, the legislation for protecting designs both in the UK and Europe has been updated and simplified with the aim of encouraging more innovation, and increased investment in the development and production of new products.

As the Minister responsible for the intellectual property system in the UK, I am determined to ensure that the registered designs system and legal framework is fit for purpose and continues to keep pace with changes in technology, society and the economy. Design rights are used by many diverse parts of the design industry, from heavy industry through to fashion, and we must ensure that all of their different needs are taken into account.

Part of this of course means the UK Intellectual Property Office must continue to award registered designs promptly and at affordable cost. Recently the UK-IPO introduced the 'multiple design' to the application process to provide a more flexible and affordable option to designers. New figures show filings this year are up by 50%, and designs only take on average three months to register.

We have worked with our European partners to provide designers with more choice and greater cost-savings when registering designs. Designers now have more than one route to obtain design protection in Europe. Designers can apply for a Europe-wide right through the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, or register directly in the UK through the Intellectual Property Office.

In the first five years of the Community design system over 300,000 designs were registered. The UK is the fifth highest user of the Community design system, meaning that UK designers are responsible for almost one in ten designs registered with the European Office. This is no surprise, as the UK creative industry cements its position as a leading originator of design in the international arena.

The increasing importance of global design protection can be seen in the recent accession of the European Union to the Hague international registration system. The Hague system takes us closer to a one step system for protecting designs throughout the world. The US will soon follow the EU, and I understand that Japan and China are giving it serious consideration.

The UK's prosperity relies increasingly upon our ability to develop and promote new products and services from creative individuals and companies. But unfortunately it is plain that there are always some who will attempt to free-ride on the creativity of others. Counterfeiting has become a clear and serious threat. Indeed, the traffic in fake goods now threatens to overwhelm honest business throughout the world.

To counter this we need to take a strategic and co-ordinated approach, which utilises the skills and expertise that exist in businesses, enforcement agencies and government. Without joint effort and policies to dissuade business and consumers from seeing counterfeiting as 'fair game', open markets can be easily destabilised. Since its very beginning ACID has taken an active role in raising awareness of the damage caused to the design industry by fake copies. I congratulate Dids Macdonald and her team on the improvements they have stimulated in this area.

I am pleased that ACID has joined with the UK-IPO in raising awareness with key Trading Standards Authorities in the UK, to facilitate the effective protection of designs.

Local businesses and communities are equally affected by the rise in counterfeiting. As a result the UK-IPO is continuing to put increased efforts into bringing together business, policy makers and enforcement agencies to find new ways of combating the fake trade. Raising public awareness and developing effective communication messages is vital.

In 2006, the independent Gowers review took a comprehensive look at the whole intellectual property system. It highlighted the complexity of the legal mechanisms which are available to enforce design rights. I know that this is an issue of concern to ACID members, and fully support initiatives which enable parties to resolve disputes over design protection without having to resort to the Courts.

I very much welcome ACID's 'Mediate to Resolve' initiative. Everyone has the potential to gain if disputes can be settled by mediation, through the Mediate to Resolve service, rather than resorting to court action, with its attendant complexities and greater costs. I understand that ACID has carried out nearly 2,000 mediations at exhibitions to date, which is a really great achievement.

Education is also vital to foster a culture which respects creativity and intellectual property rights. This is of particular importance when it comes to complex rights such as those protecting designs.

The UK Intellectual Property Office has taken forward a number of education initiatives, including the Primary School Innovation Project 'Cracking Ideas'. This introduces children to innovation and creativity in the classroom. The project, fronted by Oscar winners Wallace & Gromit, provides teachers with resources and activities through the Cracking Ideas website. Children aged 9 - 11 are encouraged to come up with a new invention - with the emphasis this year on alternative energy themes.

I welcome ACID's 'Educate to Protect' initiative, which serves to give practical advice and tools to design students and graduates, to help them learn how to better protect and profit from their intellectual property.

We must recognise that alongside the benefits of globalisation and new technologies there will always be challenges for individual companies and designers. But by equipping designers with the best tools and knowledge to protect their creativity, and the most effective methods to resolve disputes, we can work together to help designers make the most from their hard work and talent.

I am very pleased to be able to congratulate ACID on their 10th anniversary, and I wish them every success, as we in government, and you as designers, continue to build upon our shared goal to help to grow the creative economy.