UK government sets 2020 deadline
to end replica furniture production

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Egg Chair replica

Business news: the UK government has finally set a date for the introduction of its new copyright protection law, making it illegal to manufacture or sell copies of mass-produced designs after 2020.

The law will come into force on 6 April 2020 and will give industrially manufactured items such as furniture, lighting and jewellery the same copyright protection as works of art, books and music.

Registered designs in the UK are only protected for 25 years, but the new law will give them protection until 70 years after the death of the designer.

"Great design forms an integral part of our lives whether it be architecture, jewellery or home furnishings," wrote UK intellectual property minister Lucy Neville-Rolfe in a document announcing the decision. "Both cutting-edge designs and those that have stood the test of time continue to be in high demand and we need to ensure designers have an appropriate incentive to create."

"But currently these artistic designs lose copyright protection after 25 years if they have been mass produced," she added. "This is unfair in comparison to other artistic works, like literature and music, which are protected for the life of the creator and 70 years."

The changes to the law are contained in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which was passed on 25 April 2013 and brought IP protection in the UK into line with most other European countries.

However the government delayed implementing the law while it consulted with businesses that would be affected by it. Design brands including Vitra, Artek and Flos urged the government to implement the law as soon as possible while replica furniture retailers argued for a delay.

"Having listened carefully to the views of designers and businesses, the Government has made the decision to implement the change in law in April 2020," said Neville-Rolfe. "When this happens, we hope the change will bring rewards for British designers and encourage a new generation to innovate and grow."

The change to the law followed a wide debate on copyright for furniture designs, after the British prime minister's wife purchased a reproduction of the Castiglioni brothers' iconic Arco floor lamp in 2011.

This led to a campaign headed by Elle Decoration editor Michelle Ogundehin, who rallied licensed manufacturers and retailers including Vitra, Fritz Hansen, Skandium and Aram to challenge the intellectual property rights laws in the UK.

Writing in Dezeen recently, Vitra chairman Tony Ash argued that copyists are "eating away at the very creativity of our industry". Chris Diemer of replica furniture retailer Voga responded by saying that firms like his are making good design affordable for the masses.

Main image is a replica Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair from replica retailer Voga.

  • KD1two3

    Five years? Why so long? Why not one year?

  • lwall

    I wonder – will this drive more innovation in furniture design, or just drive prices up? I hope it’s the former.

  • Tim P

    Designers like creating things. That is our passion. Being able to make a bit more money 25 years after launching a product is hardly going to make any difference to a true designer’s motivation to design.

    The owners of the companies that make and sell the products might rub their hands together a little more energetically, but it is wrong to conclude that this change will make any difference to how many designers enter the industry or how creative they will be.

  • Bob Arpanet

    Yeah, good luck enforcing that in anywhere but the UK. The Chinese must be so scared! Over officious bureaucrats justifying their jobs with toothless and useless legislation that will slip into nothingness within a few years and be forgotten.

  • When copyright laws were established in the US (late 1700s) they were set at 18 years (as best I recall). There was a theory behind this, it was to keep creative people innovating, not resting on an innovation. Now, it is to enable licensed manufacturers to retain exclusivity. Disney, Vitra, Noguchi, Herman Miller: go create something original.

    Current Eames Lounge chairs cost more now (with manufacturing long amortized) than 25 years ago. The new creative copyright laws will reduce creativity, and sponsor escalating prices.

  • Calicofish

    I have collected mid-century modern furniture for 30 years. And in that time I have never been able to afford new pieces despite the fact that I have have made a decent living for much of that time.

    I have haunted charity shops and ebay for used pieces, and then done my best to repair and reupholster and the like. I have some great pieces, but some of the ones I really like, have proved the most elusive.

    Take the artichoke lamp; I just bought a fantastic knockoff for €220! I will never have the £7,000 or so it would cost new. I’d also like an egg chair but can’t afford one, and wouldn’t consider a knock off as they aren’t up to snuff. Frankly the real chairs are beautiful but not very comfortable. Most of these designs were meant to be futuristic – NOT ELITIST.

    Knoll, Fritz Hansen, and the like are doing themselves a disservice with their pricing. Few can afford originals now, and in future even fewer will be able to. Who was I to think I could aspire to own some of this stuff? If something doesn’t change on the price front you will only see these designs very rarely, like when you pop round the Beckham’s or pitch up in the lobby of Elle magazine.

    I suspect Samantha Cameron will we going to Wilkos next time she needs a lamp – and she will very likely see me there, buying a lead, connected to a bulb, with a hook to hang it on – the only affordable design left…

  • grammama

    But if it’s to do with copyright just pay up. How much does the original designer or his estate have to be paid for copyright?

    I’ve just seen the famous Eames in black leather and walnut on a website for £6000+ so anyone who could afford that could afford another £1000 or £1500. That won’t be me.

    I’m still smiling over my good as new/hardly used dining set from Heart Foundation for £25 and vaguely G-Plan. Remember them? Auction house near me sold a genuine G-Plan storage unit for £1 last year. Fashions come and go, prices are what the market will bear.