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Talk:Hargreaves 2011 review of UK patent law

IAM-magazine article, 6 Nov 2010

Here's the text of an article from iam-magazine. They sometimes have good articles but they don't archive them (or they break the links), so here's the text. Can someone read through it and see if there's anything that should be mentioned in the article? A link to [1] is good for a reference, so there's no need to keep the text here any longer than necessary.

David Cameron, the UK's Prime Minister, has announced an independent review of the country's IP laws "to see if we can make them fit for the internet age". Putting more flesh on what the PM had to say, IP minister Baroness Wilcox stated: "The future of the economy lies in the highly skilled, technology sectors. For many of those companies their intellectual property is their most valuable asset. We must ensure the intellectual property system helps not hinders those companies." She explained that the review will examine what changes can be made to the IP system in the UK to help businesses grow and stated that it will focus on four areas:
  • Barriers to new internet-based business models, including the costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders.
  • The cost and complexity of enforcing intellectual property rights within the UK and internationally.
  • The interaction between IP and Competition frameworks.
  • The cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing services to help them protect and exploit their IP.
In addition, the review will examine whether the UK needs to introduce a US-style fair use system for copyrights. This is far less restrictive than the fair dealing provisions that we currently have in place here. Mr Cameron stated that had the UK regime been in force in the US, Google's business would never have got off the ground. The report is due to be published next April.
Baroness Wilcox also announced that the UK IP Office will begin a six-month peer-to-patent trial project: "This project aims to reduce the number patents being granted for ideas and inventions that are not new or inventive. It will result in fewer disputes and legal challenges providing more certainty for businesses. We are looking to use the vast array of knowledge out there to improve the patent system for business."
It is, of course, always welcome to hear senior politicians taking about IP as an enabler of innovation. And in the UK they do not come more senior than the PM. However, I do wonder whether another review is what we need here. The UK IP Office is already undertaking a series of in-depth research projects, a number of which seem to cover ground that this review will also be looking at. Recently, for example, it delivered a very detailed report on IP disputes as they affect SMEs and micro firms, while there are several copyright-related studies slated for publication over the coming year. And let's not forget it is only relatively recently that the Gowers Review was published. Quite what another six months of investigation will reveal that we do not know already - it is expensive to enforce IP rights, especially in the UK, copyright laws are out-dated, competition and IP laws essentially clash in many areas etc - eludes me. And, of course, the UK's freedom to act independently is also severely constrained given that almost all IP and competition law issues are now decided at the EU level.
That said, I am going to be very interested in what this independent review has to say about " the cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing services to help them protect and exploit their IP". This has not been looked at before to any great extent and I think it is absolutely crucial. I would also throw in a look at how (or even whether) IP is taught at business schools and at universities outside of law faculties. Is it possible that those conducting the review will find that at the moment British SMEs, like their counterparts all over Europe, struggle to get fully-rounded, business-relevant strategic IP advice? Just as important, I wonder whether the review will conclude that many British businesses do not actually realise they need such advice in the first place? For me, these are the challenges that we need to face up to and overcome. If we can do that successfully, then most of the rest will fall into place or, at the very least, will be less of an issue.

END. Ciaran 18:35, 5 December 2010 (EST)