Ireland set to extend copyright in industrial works

The Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation published the results of its consultation on the proposed harmonization of the term of copyright protection for artistic works exploited by an industrial process.

For most copyrights the protection lasts for a term of the life of the author plus a further 70 years after death. With artistic works that are exploited industrially – for example furniture, lighting etc – the position was unclear since the 2001 design directive appeared to leave it up to the Member States to set the term for works exploited by an industrial process. In the UK and Ireland the copyright in these works was set at 25 years, the same as under the design directive.

However the European Court in the 2011 flos judgment which concerned designer lighting clarified that the term of copyright was harmonized in the EU irrespective of any changes that might have been thought to have been made under European design laws.

The biggest effect of the proposed changes appears be to the business of retailers of replica furniture or furniture inspired by classic designs. These retailers will see the opportunity to manufacture and sell lower cost replicas of classic furniture from periods up until the early 1990’s shut off for the best part of another century.

When the UK changed its law recently it seems that some replica businesses decided to move to Ireland since at that time Ireland had not moved to bring its laws into line with the flos decision.  However that loophole will now be closed off.

With this consultation complete the Irish administration now intends to introduce a 12 month transition period to allow manufacturers to reorient their businesses and run down stocks. After this, classic industrial designs will benefit from a longer term of intellectual property protection.