Intellectual property law shake-up welcomed

Dids Macdonald

The Government’s intellectual property review, which aims to develop a new IP system that can better drive growth and innovation, is being welcomed by Anti Copying in Design and IP campaigner Sebastian Conran.

Prime Minister David Cameron says the review, details of which were announced last week, will align Britain’s IP laws with the ’Internet age’. He said he would like the UK to look to the IP model in the US.

Acid chief executive Dids Macdonald points out that in the US an ’IP tsar’ is a ’positive force with direct access to the President’, but she concedes that a systemic change in the UK is a huge undertaking with practical obstacles.

Sebastian Conran

Macdonald says, ’In the US copyright is a registrable right and they also have design patents. In the UK copyright is not a registrable right and we have registered design right and unregistered design right, but it takes several years to change the law.’

When he announced his plans, Cameron referenced the founders of Google, who say they could not have set up in Britain. Cameron adds, ’Google’s service depends on taking a snapshot of all the content on the Internet at any one time and they feel our copyright system is not as friendly to this sort of innovation as it is in the United States.’

Macdonald says that easing IP around online ventures sets up a dichotomy, as the UK IP rights system aims to treat all companies even-handedly. She argues that if some free access was given to creative content – such as a search engine – ’reform could undermine the framework that is there to support all companies’.

David Cameron

However, Macdonald describes the review as a ’welcome initiative’ which she hopes will focus on a ’relevant and robust framework to encourage IP creators and ensure that protection and enforcement are key priorities’.

For small and medium-sized enterprises, Macdonald says costs associated with IP enforcement remain prohibitive. She has already written to Cameron outlining these concerns in the wake of the review announcement.

Conran, who has campaigned on IP issues, says he is sure that the current system ’does need reviewing’. He adds that the cost of patent implementation is unnecessarily complicated.

He says, ’I may spend £3000 developing something and then someone will knock it off and it will cost me a second mortgage to try to protect it – and there’s slim chance of winning.’

Conran adds, ’At the moment, the system seems to be weighted more towards people who have got the funds to fight in court.’ He hopes the expense of litigation is addressed and agrees that ’we should look around the world to establish best practice’ and find a joined-up solution that considers IP in the ’global market’.


It’s a crime

  • Acid has received a Government response to a separate petition on bringing criminal sanctions for design right infringement
  • The Government has suggested ’current civil-based provisions provide a suitable intellectual property rights framework’, says Acid chief executive Dids Macdonald, who adds, ’The Government is also leaving the door open for further talks’
  • Macdonald says, ’With blatant and deliberate copyright infringement, it is a criminal offence, while copying inadvertently is not. Blatant and deliberate design infringement does not have this access to the criminal system’
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