What should the Government’s IP policies be?

reactionAt a recent meeting of IP lawyers, at which IP Draughts was present, someone asked what the next UK Government’s policies should be in the area of intellectual property. This prompted several “instant reactions”, including the following:

  1. Unified Patent Court. Continue to support the UK’s participation in the Central Division of the (European) Unified Patent Court, by providing sufficient direction and funding for the new court’s facilities and activities. After David Cameron’s remarkable diplomatic success in getting the life sciences part of the Central Division’s work to be located in the UK, it is important to follow this up at an operational level, and avoid penny-pinching.
  2. Educate the population about IP. Establish a body that is responsible for widespread education about IP.  Consider introducing courses on IP in undergraduate programmes in science and arts subjects. Work with universities and IP professionals to take this forward, rather than rely on the UK IPO which is not established to be a training body.
  3. IP threats legislation. Depending on what the final recommendations are from the Law Commission, which is currently reviewing the subject of IP threats, promptly introduce legislation to implement their recommendations.

Having reflected since the meeting, IP Draughts would add a couple of further suggestions:

  • recognise that UK IP policy is mostly developed at an EU level nowadays, and put more Governmental energy into negotiating policy developments at that level. The same point could be made about many aspects of commercial law, including the current proposals to introduce an EU-wide sales law.
  • stopstop setting up independent reviews of UK IP policy, such as Gowers and Hargreaves. They generate a huge amount of work with limited benefits in return.
  • develop some genuine expertise on this complex subject within the relevant Government department (probably BIS). Don’t expect the UK IPO to be the main source of Government expertise – that is a bit like leaving it to HM Revenue and Customs to develop fiscal policy.

Do readers agree with these points? Do you have any other suggestions?

 

6 Comments

Filed under Intellectual Property, Legal policy

6 responses to “What should the Government’s IP policies be?

  1. I have always found the challenge in conducting IP education is finding the right balance between the two extremes. Some people see IP and throw their hands up in the air in the belief that only specialist agencies such as the IPO should touch it, let alone teach it, meaning they are less receptive to your teaching efforts. At the other extreme, some people know very little about IP but consider themselves experts who don’t need any more education, and in fact believe they can educate others, thus spreading bad ideas and wrong theories. As a result of these vocal extremes, it can be difficult to get your point across to the silent majority of people who simply want to understand the topic. On that basis, I personally think there should be greater focus on the teacher (regardless of whether it’s the IPO or more generalist lecturers at undergraduate level) getting their approach to teaching right, but I am not sure there are any easy answers to how this can be achieved.

  2. I agree that IPO, and any other NPO in the EU, is not and should not be a training body. The quality of examination is main priority of a Patent Office.
    Yordan
    politov@politov.eu

  3. Ah yes indeed, got it. For a moment I thought I was in a Monty Python sketch, with our Nige as a central character. Perhaps the UK IPO could rule on who has superior rights to the letters U K I P ?

  4. vrkoven

    Here’s one thought: you should be very careful when you put the letters “UK” next to “IP” and then advocate greater authority for EU institutions.

    That apart, I wonder about the efficacy of IP education, as opposed to propaganda. It’s all well and good to say “don’t steal other people’s output,” but it’s rather a question-begging exercise unless you get deeper than one ought into the philosophy underlying IP protection, which, let’s face it, is both murky and contentious. The result might be a lively discussion whose only conclusion in the minds of the intended chastisees, to coin a phrase, is that you can do whatever you please if you have a fancy enough vocabulary and a glib enough tongue (or pen). Unless, that is, you run up against a judge whose sympathies are against you, in which case you’re croaked; but that’s no different from any other area of the law fraught with “culture-war” overtones.

    • Thanks, Vance. I don’t think I was advocating greater authority for EU institutions, just recognising that most UK IP laws nowadays originate at a European (EU or EPC) level, and the scope for purely UK measures is limited.

      On your second point, to take a driving analogy, I think the education should focus on learning how to drive, and knowing your way around the Highway Code, rather than the philosophy of car travel (eg whether it is more environmentally sound to travel by bus).

      I am not *quite* as sceptical as you seem to be about the court system, though it may be no bad thing to make students aware of the risks of being on the wrong side of the judge’s world view.

      • vrkoven

        >> you should be very careful when you put the letters “UK” next to “IP” and then advocate greater authority for EU institutions.

        > I don’t think I was advocating greater authority for EU institutions, just recognising that most UK IP laws nowadays originate at a European (EU or EPC) level, and the scope for purely UK measures is limited. >

        Well OK, just don’t blame me if you end up on the wrong end of a defamation suit from Nigel Farage.

        Wink wink, nudge nudge.

        Vance R. Koven Boston, Massachusetts USA vrkoven@world.std.com

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