An independent review into how the intellectual property system can better drive growth and innovation was launched by Prime Minister David Cameron on 4 November 2010.
Mr Cameron announced the six-month review during a speech at a major event in Shoreditch before an audience of business people.
He spoke about how the Government can help make Britain the most attractive place in the world to start and invest in innovative technology companies.
He revealed the Government had published a Technology Blueprint that spells out how the Government will support high-tech innovation, including reviewing the IP system.
Mr Cameron said: “I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the internet age.”
The six-month review aims to identify barriers to growth within the IP framework, which consists of the rules and regulations covering how IP is created, used and protected in this country.
It will particularly focus on how the IP system can be improved to help the new business models arising from the digital age.
Amongst other things, the review will consider whether there are benefits in US-style ‘fair use’ copyright provisions in terms of encouraging and enabling more creative applications of intellectual property. This review will also set out recommendations to make it cheaper and easier for companies, particularly start-ups, to protect and enforce intellectual property. The review will report in April 2011.
The Technology Blueprint also reveals the Intellectual Property Office will trial a new “peer to patent” project, which will allow people to comment on patent applications and rate contributions to help improve the quality of granted patents. Under the “peer to patent” system, versions of which are being trialled around the world, technology experts can comment on patent applications over the Internet, helping patent offices identify innovations which are genuinely inventive.
The review aims to make it easier for companies, particularly start-ups, to protect and enforce their intellectual property. There have already been recent improvements in that direction as a result of changes to the Patents County Court (“PCC”), which took effect on 1 October 2010. In a nutshell, the procedure has been streamlined, with the intention that most cases will be decided on the basis of the paperwork alone, without a trial. And there is to be a cap on the costs recoverable by the successful party – the overall limit will be £50,000, or £25,000 if the case is concerned only with the amount of damages, rather than liability. Each stage of the process will also have its own individual cap on costs recoverable.
There have been a number of reviews of the UK’s intellectual property laws, including the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, which reported in December 2006, with subsequent consultation as to the implementation of its recommendations. When the Gowers report was launched, it was announced with the headline “Gowers sets out intellectual property system fit for the digital age”. Now the Prime Minister has announced “we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the internet age”. I do wonder whether this is just an exercise in putting off the changes that need to be made to make our intellectual property laws fit for the future. Once the latest review reports in April 2011, there will be yet further rounds of consultation, and of course it is very difficult to have any radical changes to intellectual property laws without getting agreement on an international basis – at least so far as the European Union is concerned. So don’t hold your breath …