New EU ruling governing furniture design extends copyright from 25 to 70 years after the designer’s death.
This means that any replica furniture, usually a lot cheaper than the original, will no longer be allowed to be produced until 70 years after the designer has died.
Businesses that sell replica furniture within the allocated time frame could face fines of up to £50,000 and a prison sentence of up to ten years.
The new ruling means that designers have more protection over their creations, but customers will no longer have access to cheap versions of designer goods.
The UK Government had planned to implement this change in 2020 to give companies time to adapt, but a legal challenge has forced the Government to fast track it to 28 April 2016. Companies will have six months to sell their replica stock from this date.
A spokesperson for the Intellectual Property Office said: “Changes are being made to copyright law to bring copyright protection for works of artistic craftsmanship into line with other artistic creations like paintings and sculptures. It is important that creators are rewarded for their work.
“Initially the government felt that five years was an appropriate time to allow the change in law, however after reviewing this decision in light of a legal challenge, the government now believes a short transitional period is more appropriate.”
Classic designs that will be affected include the Eames Lounge Chair by Charles and Ray Eames. Replicas can be bought for around £279, but authentic chairs made by Vitra cost from £3,390. Ray Eames died in 1988 meaning that the chair design is now under copyright until 2058. No replicas will be allowed without the risk of being sued for breach of copyright.