William Kilburn, design copyright pioneer

William Kilburn (1745-1818) was an illustrator, designer and printer of textiles. He specialised in producing printed calico, a popular light cotton fabric. However, another warehousing merchant called Ralph Yates was copying Kilburn’s designs and selling them for a cheaper price, which led to a loss of earnings for Kilburn.

In 1787 Kilburn successfully led a group of manufacturers to petition for an act of Parliament to prevent copying. The bill was called "An Act for the Encouragement of the Arts of designing and printing Linens, Cottons, Callicoes and Muslins by vesting the Properties thereof in the Designers, Printers, Proprietors for a limited Time”.

His designs can be seen at the V&A Museum in London.

Sadly, design theft is still prevalent but at least we have ACID, which stands for Anti Copying in Design. It is a campaigning organisation for design and intellectual property, protecting designers against theft. You can register your designs and get legal advice if required.

Until next time creative crew,