What is ACID? Your voice against design theft

ACID is the UK’s leading design and intellectual property campaigning organisation.  We are a forward thinking trade association for designers and manufacturers; a not-for-profit organisation funded by membership fees.  Our aim is to provide cost effective tips, advice and guidelines to help our members protect their intellectual property to achieve growth through a proactive IP strategy.  To retain the integrity of our membership, all potential members must be designers or have a design capability and the majority of their products must be designed either in-house or by commissioned designers.  We also welcome manufacturers to join ACID who have entered into licence agreements with freelance designers in which the intellectual property rights are assigned to the manufacturer.

Why ACID began

ACID’s CEO Dids Macdonald was a successful product designer in the 1980’s producing hand painted decorative accessories for top interior designers. It was a great success. But it came with a huge problem: theft. Every new design was knocked off by larger companies without any hope of redress. Like the vast majority of Britain’s 350,000 design companies, they were a tiny outfit and not in a position to take on the unscrupulous thieves and copycats. They had no idea where to start.

So Dids and an IP lawyer who had helped her (Simon Clark) came up with another idea: to create a plan to help David fight Goliath. Today ACID represents thousands of designers.  We’re here to help the good guys defeat the bad and also promote design originality as a real route to growth for the creator, not design thieves! There have been thousands of successful settlements on behalf of members.

Photography and video courtesy of Moritz Schmittat

Interested in becoming a member? Why not join now!

What do we do?

We shout loudly through all media channels about the need for communicated IP respect, compliance & ethics in CSR. We support exhibitors at exhibitions with mediation. We hold events – seminars, workshops and offer IP Audits. We try to take the legalese out of IP law with simple Q & A. We have a free membership IP hotline that is hot! We campaign for design law reform through ACID Action and are active members of the Alliance for Intellectual Property. We have the ACID IP Databank which supports protection and ACID Marketplace an online platform which promotes and tracks. We have developed the ACID brand as a brand of deterrence and prevention, members use it far and wide to communicate one thing; a zero tolerance of IP theft.

Why we do it?

Because we believe the UK’s designers, the majority of them lone, micro and SME, deserve better; to protect their livelihoods, to maximise growth and minimise IP infringement. ACID is committed to raising awareness and encouraging respect for IP within individual and corporate responsibility and creating a safer trading environment for its members. Our current campaign is to ensure UK designers are not disadvantaged post Brexit when they may lose protection for unregistered EU rights in 27 other member states. If you feel strongly about this please show your support. Brexit@acid.uk.com

Who helps ACID?

Our members and a broad range of advocates who share our passion for helping UK designers protect their IP to achieve sustained growth – Ambassadors, Legal Affiliates, Government and Policy officials, partner organisations and key influencers in the design community. Our and their collective aim is to communicate the importance of intellectual property to designers’ sustained commercial success. They and we are keen to promote the value of IP, essential to the UK’s economic success and cultural standing more especially as we navigate the uncharted territory of Brexit, trade negotiations and the Industrial Strategy.

What have we achieved?

ACID’s 20 years of campaigning culminated in the 2014 IP Act making the intentional infringement of a Registered Design a criminal offence, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Other campaign successes have been the introduction of a Small Claims Track within the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court to enable small claims of less than £10,000 – a useful deterrent for those who think they can avoid legal challenge.  The IPEC small claims track is only suitable for claims where the amount in dispute (not including costs) is £10,000 or less. If the claim has a value of more than £10,000, it is unlikely to be suitable for hearing in the small claims track, unless the Court orders otherwise.

ACID also lobbied for the creation of the role of Minister of Intellectual Property and we are one of the few countries in the world to have one. Other reforms have been to persuade the IPO to lower their fees for design registrations and make the system available for online applications.

There have been 1000’s of settlements, over 4000+ mediations and through the awareness of ACID and many others, design is no longer an unsung hero in the UK economy.

On British IP Day 2016 ACID was recognized as the UK’s first IP Champion.

What are our plans?

To keep on doing what we do but better! To eradicate design theft, “Commission it, Don’t copy it!”

To keep campaigning for criminal provisions for unregistered rights, IP respect within CSR and the introduction of exemplary damages that really hurt. Ensure post Brexit, UK designers will not be disadvantaged by losing the benefits of EU Unregistered Design

Extend criminal provisions for the intentional infringement of unregistered designs

3D Printing – whilst there are enormous opportunities there are also IP challenges – as the majority of UK designers rely on UDR, currently not a criminal offence, this leaves the door open (potentially) for organised crime.

Despite improvements to the IPEC and Small Claims Track, it is still cost prohibitive for most micro and SME designers to pursue infringement.