One of the most incredible books on design was written by Giampiero Bosoni and Francesca Picchi in 2000: Brevetti di design in Italia dal 1945. A journey into an incredible world told through technical drawings, obsessive and detailed captions, nomenclatures.
The project, in a legal dimension, acquires a completely different meaning. And above all it changes its meaning: from creative work to intellectual and industrial property. In short: the registration of the design or patent is the license that certifies the real, pragmatic, economic value of the designer's work. And it protects its formal uniqueness, invention, ingenious idea or intuition. But does it still really work like that?
A 2019 EUIPO and OECD study argues that industrial property rights violations in international trade in 2016 may have reached 3.3% of world trade. Up to 6.8% of EU imports, or € 121 billion per year, are counterfeit products.
Protecting the designer's work is easier thanks to technology
Protecting the work and investments of designers is a little easier today. There are digital tools and new professionals capable of extricating more easily between international standards and global markets. And copying, especially when it is online, is a solvable problem today.
“Ours is a consultancy work that supports all actions useful for the protection of intellectual property”, explains Edoardo Mola, CEO of Praxi IP. "We take care of facilitating the process of identifying, that is, what is worth protecting, and of filing applications for registration, all over the world".
The legal protection of designs and models still passes through registration. The novelty, however, is that it is no longer imperative to take legal action to block the circulation and marketing of copies.
“Digital tools are the most effective and rational solution: think of software specialized in photographic recognition and automated image reading and machine learning for the pragmatic scanning of the information received online”, adds Edoardo Mola.
Real legal instruments are used only in exceptional cases. “But it is above all the recognition of the copy that helps the protection of the model, designs, names and trademarks.
The good news? The international market is ready for the protection of intellectual property
The international market, which from a certain point of view is the one that raises the most concerns, is certainly more ready to accept the very concept of intellectual property protection, and this greatly facilitates things ", explains Ilaria Lonardo, trademark consultant and design by Praxi IP. The filing of more than 90,000 design applications each year with the European Intellectual Property Office (source: EUIPO) shows that brands recognize the value of international protection. But it is also true that extricating the rules and doing a good job is as complicated as it is necessary.
“One of the fundamental things is to design adequate registrations to the legislation of the countries in which you want to operate” explains Lonardo. "Otherwise, the risk is to meet companies that have been able to build a more effective protection network, making it very difficult to protect the brand and the designer".
Praxi's team is made up of trademark and patent consultants, with specific skills different from those of a lawyer. “The registration strategy is the core of our work”, Lonardo emphasizes. "Working in the medium term, taking into account the design process and the international marketing objectives of the brand means rationalizing efforts and economic energies".
What to do when you are a victim of the copy trade?
And when the copy is already there and is being marketed? “In this case we activate with digital channels: market places, social networks, sites… The software we use is able to monitor copies and counterfeits and evaluate the economic value of their circulation” explains Lonardo.
In a subsequent phase, the software used by Praxi IP removes the offending products from the marketplaces that carry, advertise and sell unwittingly - or not - copies of registered products. Contrary to what is imagined, the policy of the large international marketplaces supports the defense of intellectual property. It depends on their seriousness and their turnover. The cancellation of the product does not require any contact with the "offending" company and this allows you to act quickly and effectively. "If the brand can instead defend the removed product, it will be its responsibility to understand what happens and take action to clarify the doubts and complaints that emerged from the automatic software analysis" explains Ilaria Lonardo.
From renunciation to prevention and action
This is actually the real news. If in the past there was a tendency to renounce any action that involved contact with the antagonist brand producing copies, precisely because of a widespread feeling of helplessness and uselessness, today the process is definitely facilitated by technology and related digital protection tools.
"It is not necessary to obtain authorizations from the judicial authorities because there is a regulatory principle that obliges site providers to delete content (images, advertisements, etc.) as soon as they become aware that they cause infringements or counterfeits: the task of the online platform protection is to identify infringements on the basis of recognition algorithms and technology, as well as registration certificates”, Lonardo specifies. In short: marketplaces and social networks, once made aware of an offense, cannot fail to take action to eliminate the offending products.
Digital tools to support the analysis and monitoring needs of the "gray" market
Another issue, even more complex to deal with without a correct strategy and the help of digital screening, is the so-called "gray market". That is, the unauthorized distribution of original products through unofficial, albeit legal, channels or dealers. In this case, it is essential to control the paths of products on the web, as well as their commercial performance, for both sellers and buyers. A typical example are the numerous second hand sales platforms which often, precisely because, being informal P2P channels, function as a distribution and commercial undergrowth.
Perhaps the time has come for brands and designers to explore new territories, with fewer fears and less reluctance.
“In this type of consultancy, the direct relationship with the individual production districts helps us to build bespoke consultancy projects, suitable for the type of company and sector. Praxi has ten offices in Italy, in different areas and in different regions, precisely to give specific assistance, based on the local production reality".