UK Government Policy on IP: New Laws in 2012?

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for IP

The UK Government has finally published its response to the Hargreaves Report.  It accepts most of the recommendations in that report and promises action to implement them.

Among the highlights that caught IP Draughts’ eye:

  • The Govt supports the idea of a Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE), “or something like it”, but does not consider that it should be run by Govt.  Later this year, they will commission someone to lead the work necessary to setting up a DCE.
  • The Govt will bring forward proposals for a scheme to allow use of orphan works.
  • The Govt will bring forward proposals for widening the exceptions to copyright, to the extent this is possible under EU laws.  Exceptions will be introduced for private copying, non-commercial research, data mining, library archiving and parody.
  • The Govt will resist extending patents into sectors which are currently excluded, unless there is clear evidence of a benefit to innovation and growth from doing so.
  • The Govt will introduce a small claims track in the Patents County Court for claims under £5,000.  The Govt will consider renaming it the Intellectual Property County Court.
  • The IPO will set out plans for a copyright opinion service at the end of the year.

The Govt will consult on the detail of how to proceed in the coming months and set out its plans on these and other proposals in a White Paper in Spring 2012.

The Govt commits to “no further major review of the IP system in this Parliament.”  For those of us who are on practitioner committees that have made submissions to an endless series of Govt reviews on IP in recent years, this is a very welcome piece of news.

IP Draughts was impressed by the intelligent, reasonable, persuasive tone of the Govt’s response paper.  The voice of Vince Cable, a former chief economist at Shell, can be heard in some of the phrasing.  We also get a sense from the paper of the Govt keeping the IPO at arm’s length, respecting it for its technical input as an adviser, but not allowing it to dictate Govt policy.  This is a welcome change from the Hargreaves Report, some of which gave the appearance of being written by the IPO and of serving IPO’s institutional interests.

We look forward to seeing the promised consultation documents later this year.

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