Dezeen Magazine

Tom Dixon at Global Design Forum

"Legal systems don't really defend designers at all" - Tom Dixon

London Design Festival: "Legal systems don't really defend designers at all" when it comes to copying, British designer Tom Dixon told Dezeen today at the Global Design Forum, a day of talks from leading figures in the design world as part of the London Design Festival (+audio).

Above: Tom Dixon spoke to Dezeen after his talk at the Global Design Forum today

In his presentation earlier this morning, Dixon commented on the threat foreign manufacturers pose to his design business. Searching for his work on eBay produces seven pages and only two genuine items, he said: "All the others are copies at a third of the price from Hong Kong." Copiers use drawings from designers' websites to produce accurate replicas and even steal marketing images to paste into their own online catalogues, he explained. "It's very quick and pernicious. I used to laugh it off and be flattered that people bothered to copy, but now I'm more nervous."

Speaking to Dezeen after his talk, Dixon explained that "in Australia for instance, if you call something a Tom Dixon replica you can bypass the law: you're stating what the thing is, it's a replica, so therefore it's legitimate even though it's a copy." He says that designers "just have to be smarter, faster and quicker to market."

Dixon is therefore enthusiastic about technological advances that are making the manufacturing process more fast and flexible, citing his use of robotic machines that bypass the high set-up costs and inflexibility of mass-production and enable the same design to be produced in Britain, the US and China simultaneously, simply by sending a computer file.

"Localised production will become more and more the model, just because we won't be able to afford to ship things so much," he told us. "Perhaps you do want things which are more adapted to your personal needs and maybe you'll cherish things which are more personal anyway. Previously those things were only available to people that could afford tailor-made shoes but there's no doubt that it's already possible to personalise things for your own needs right now. So that could be a massive growing trend."

In May the UK government announced changes in the law to give ‘artistic’ manufactured goods the same term of copyright protection as music and literature, following a campaign spearheaded by Elle Decoration UK editor Michelle Ogundehin.

Read Dezeen's report on how localised, digital manufacture is revolutionising industrial design here, and watch our movie filmed with Tom Dixon at his digital mini factory in Milan here.

The Global Design Forum is a new conference taking place today, organised by the London Design Festival to bring together designers, critics, technology experts, trend forecasters and trade and government representatives to discuss the global agenda for design.

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