IP Draughts is delighted to announce that he has successfully completed a training programme in IP law that has recently been established by the UK Intellectual Property Office.
A copy of IP Draughts’ certificate, signed personally by Rosa Wilkinson, Director of Innovation at the IPO, is shown left.
The UK’s IP Minister, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, announced the creation of the course in a speech earlier this week. It is part of the IPO’s drive to increase understanding of IP in universities and schools.
The online programme is intended to take 40 minutes to complete, and covers all of the main types of intellectual property: trade marks, patents, designs and copyright, as well as trade secrets.
The course is lively and reasonably entertaining. Money has been spent on making it look professional. The video interviews of people describing how they chose and applied for different types of IP protection are particularly engaging. An interactive flow-chart, showing how an inventor has choices to make – does he talk to an angel investor, get him to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), apply for a patent or keep his idea secret, etc – is thought-provoking and illustrates that there is more than one way to commercialise IP. The flow-chart can be reset and replayed, enabling you to go down a different route and come out with a different end result.
As a “taster” for undergraduate students, introducing them to IP, it has much to commend it. It is much more impressive, in IP Draughts’ view, than the guides for SMEs that the IPO produced some years ago (some of them with IP Draughts’ help as a member of an advisory committee). There is greater ambition in this new training programme, and much more money has been spent, and spent well, to make a dry subject interesting.
A huge amount of legal and commercial content has been packed into a 40 minute show. Probably too much, and probably some of it will be a turn-off, eg the summaries of the different periods of protection for copyright works. Yet it may be no bad thing to make students aware that the subject contains a lot of complex detail that cannot be learnt in a lunch-break.
As a picky lawyer, there were times when IP Draughts’ winced at the over-simplification, or at a few schoolboy errors in the legal explanations. To take some examples:
Wrong information: The course is right when it says that you don’t need to get your patent lawyer to sign an NDA, but that is because they are bound by professional duties of confidentiality, not (as the course stated) because they are “subject to legal privilege”.
Unhelpful information: It is not helpful to have a comment appear when you hover over the words “legally binding [contract]” that says simply “the contract has been entered into consciously and all parties know what is expected of them”. As every law student should know, there is more to making a contract legally-binding than that. In this case, the explanation should have been omitted.
Partial information: When the course mentions crowdfunding, it rightly refers to the need to investigate “IP considerations” before inviting crowdfunders. But because of its narrow focus on IP, the course fails to alert the reader to what may be a more important and immediate legal consideration – the need to avoid breaking the law on marketing investment opportunities.
IP Draughts is happy to be corrected, but he suspects some of these deficiencies have arisen because the IPO has taken expert advice from patent and trade mark attorneys, but not from IP lawyers. See this announcement from the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys that mentions the involvement of patent and trade mark attorneys in the development of the course. Protecting and commercialising IP requires an understanding of commercial, financial and corporate law, as well the important but narrow subject of how to generate the IP in the first place.
IP Draughts doesn’t under-estimate how difficult it is to translate complex legal content into a simple and entertaining 40 minute introductory course for non-law students. Generally, he is impressed with the content. However, his instinct would have been to remove some of the legal explanations, and perhaps save them for a more detailed course where there may be more space and time to get them right.
It is a worthwhile exercise, developing a training programme in IP for non-law, university students. The visual appeal of this course is good, and most of the content is good. It just needs a bit more editing. This is not a big surprise; IP Draughts’ courses have tended to improve over time as the content has been tweaked. He has even been known to edit blog posts after they have been published!
IP Draughts hopes that the IPO will get feedback from students who take the course, and will fine-tune the content in response to their comments. He also hopes there will be a decent budget for producing revised editions.