Intellectual property/telecommunications: Dispute over protection of industrial designs and models

United Kingdom
The Council of Ministers has rejected an amendment to the proposal for a Directive on the legal protection of industrial designs and models adopted by the European Parliament, in its second reading. The Parliament and Council will now have to negotiate a joint text on the proposal. The dispute centres on the "repair" clause which was rejected by the Council of Ministers.

The draft Directive aims to harmonise the legal protection of industrial designs and models in the European Union and reduce the number of obstacles to the free movement of goods for designs and models.

The "repair" clause would in some circumstances allow replacement components as part of a "complex" product, such as visible motor vehicle spare parts, to be reproduced freely by independent parts manufacturers under a compulsory licensing arrangement whereby they pay a fair and reasonable remuneration to the vehicle manufacturer and the public is informed of the origin of the replacement part, probably through an indelible mark. The aim of such a clause is to achieve a balance between the industrial property interests of the motor vehicle manufacturers and the encouragement of competition in the provision of spare parts which do not "stand alone" from the rest of the vehicle design.

The difficulty of reaching agreement on this issue has already significantly delayed the Directive and will further delay also the adoption of the Community Design Rights Regulation, which will enable a single EC-wide design right. The terms of the Regulation will very likely follow those of the Directive as closely as possible.