Just before Christmas, the Law Society of England and Wales sent to UK government ministers and officials a short, 3-page note on Brexit and IP. The note identifies the top 5 priorities of the UK IP professions in relation to IP issues arising from Brexit. A copy of the note can be found here.
The note is signed by the chairs or presidents of CIPA, CITMA, the IP Bar Association, the IP Federation and the Law Society’s IP Law Committee (IPLC). It will be interesting to see whether and how the government responds to the note. The most important response will be what action the government takes to continue cooperation between the UK and EU members states in areas such as the UPC and pan-EU IP rights. Actions speak louder that words.
As chair of the IPLC, IP Draughts instigated the note, prepared the first draft, and moderated the preparation of revised drafts to take account of comments from members of the organisations mentioned above. Once it was finalised, he then had to persuade the Law Society to adopt it, and send it out. These were substantial tasks, in effect a multi-party negotiation between expert, strong-minded but ultimately cooperative professionals. By way of illustration of the amount of work involved, there are well over 250 emails in the electronic folder that IP Draughts has used for this project. The resulting note has certainly had careful scrutiny!
The IP professions have generated, and will continue to generate, many documents on Brexit and IP; after all, this is the single most important event in IP law and policy for a generation. Most of the notes that IP Draughts has seen are technical notes, that consider in great detail the dozens or hundreds of issues that are thrown up by Brexit in the field of IP. Some of them are designed to be read and used by the UK Intellectual Property Office, which has responsibilities for IP policy within the UK government.
What is different about the note mentioned above is its scope and intended audience. It became apparent to IP Draughts that the UK government will need to take decisions on a huge number of trade-related issues, and that IP will be just one of these. The officials taking those decisions may have little or no familiarity with IP, and will not have time to consider in detail the dozens of issues that Brexit raises for IP law and policy.
In that context, it seemed desirable to have a short list of the IP professions’ top “asks”, that didn’t go into a lot of detail, and could be read fairly quickly by a non-specialist. The note started off as two sides of A4 paper. During its evolution it grew to three sides of A4, and IP Draught repeatedly pruned it, and cut out subsidiary phrases, to keep it within that limit. Another word or two would have brought it on to four pages.
It still manages to pack a fair amount of detail into those three pages, perhaps too much, but overall IP Draughts thinks the document is clear and fulfills the purpose that he set for it. It is good to see the IP professions cooperating on this important issue and speaking with a single voice.