And this offers me a perfect opportunity to throw up an idea I’ve been harbouring for a while now, namely that we drive a deep stake into the heart of the design regime and bury it once and for all!
Of course, the actual proposal is not as dramatic as the short snippet….and perhaps a wee bit technical….but then, what would SpicyIP be without a bit of drama?
Here is my tentative proposal and the reasons for why I think we should scrap designs and have it subsumed within the broad rubric of copyrights (at least in Indian context). I approach the issue from the vantage point of section 15(3) of the Copyright Act, a particularly problematic provision that has had the most adroit of legal jugglers at their wit’s end.
In essence, this section provides that if something is both design registrable and copyrightable, and is not in fact registered as a design, then it loses both design and copyright protection, if 50 or more articles corresponding to that design are industrially produced.
This section was notably invoked in the Scrabulous case to deny copyright protection to a board that had not been registered as a design. The rationale underlying this provision appears to be that something capable of design protection and prone to being industrially produced ought not to merit a 60 year + protection in the way that a copyright does.
However, if this be the aim, could it not be more efficiently achieved by scrapping the designs act altogether and bringing design protectable subject matter within the fold of the copyright regime?
The Designs Act provides for the registration (and consequent protection) of a wide variety of subject matter including patterns, ornamentation etc. Most of this subject matter would easily qualify as “artistic works” under the Copyright Act. In other words, if the Designs Act is scrapped, one could easily qualify such subject matter as “artistic works” and claim their protection under the Copyright Act.
However, in order to ensure that such designs susceptible to industrial production do not merit the same number of years of protection as an ordinary copyright, it could also be provided that if any artistic work is produced more than 50 times, then its period of protection shall be 15 years from the date of production of the first article and not 60 years from the death of the author.
Further, in order to ensure that all erstwhile design protectable subject matter is protected as “artistic works” without leaving any room for ambiguity, the section on artistic works ought to be expanded to include all such categories.
Voila! Wouldn’t this make for a much simpler and easier to administer regime? And one that helps us achieve tremendous cost savings….savings for the applicant (who does not have to pay for design registration per class and per hour to their attorney), for the government which does not need to maintain a separate design registration department…and savings for potential litigants who are subjected to the wrath of section 15(3)…
On this auspicious day, may we exhort you to wear your thinking policy hats and interrogate the design behind the design regime; and ask if the time has come to design an alternative regime that is aesthetically more pleasing and functionally more efficient than the prevalent one. One proposal is to subsume designs within the broad rubric of the cost efficient copyright regime, as I suggest. Are there others?
ps: image from here