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Pressure mounts on government over IP

14 November 2012

Voices of dissent claim the government is not doing enough to protect our valuable intellectual property.

In today’s knowledge-driven society, intellectual assets, including designs, brands, patents, software and concepts are now arguably the most valuable property that this country has to protect, and there are increasing calls for a shake-up of the way intellectual property (IP) is dealt with by the government.

The importance of IP to the country’s economy was stressed in a recent report by an All Party Parliamentary Group led by the Conservative MP for Maldon, John Whittingdale OBE. Describing intellectual property as “a vital foundation of economic growth”, the group made a number of key recommendations, including their call for a true champion of intellectual property within the government, a role that they do not believe the extant intellectual property minister, Baroness Willcox, currently satisfies.

Under the slogan “protecting innovation, promoting enterprise”, the report voices concern that the Intellectual Property Office (which was known until 2007 as the UK Patent Office) does not see its role as that of championing the intellectual property rights of the country and that the organisation sees itself as fundamentally tasked with providing access to existing intellectual property. The group feels that this is an error that needs putting right.

The All Party IP Group believes the US model is worth a closer look. That country has clearly benefited from having an IP Tsar, it claims, and whilst we as a nation wouldn’t necessarily want to go down that particular route, at least the minister needs to become a champion of IP. The Group suggests that a small unit within the Intellectual Property Office could fulfil that role, and if that is unacceptable, then a small team within the Department for Business, Industry and Skills should undertaking that function.

Michael Servian, an intellectual property expert and partner at Freeth Cartwright’s Stoke office, sympathises with the recommendations of the cross-parliamentary group. “I’m delighted that intellectual property is being given the priority it deserves in parliament,” he says. “We are a country of innovators, designers and creators across a wide range of industries and areas. It is vital that we protect our intellectual property in order to safeguard our economy and protect our assets.”

Dr Servian believes the law has the mechanisms in place that protect IP but says it is vital for the economy that the correct procedures are followed by both government and individual companies not only to protect their rights, but also to see that the laws are enforced.

As well as championing British business IP through the courts, Dr Servian has also designed a university course relating to IP law. He believes that intellectual property is more open for abuse than ever before, requiring extra vigilance from companies.

The Internet and the ease with which we connect in the digital world has compounded these issues and businesses are faced with an increasingly complex task in protecting their IP, brands and products. There are more counterfeit goods than ever in the UK, and digital intellectual property infringement such as cyber squatting is on the increase, warns Dr Servian.

These new forms and the increasing prevalence of IP infringement require constant combative measures from companies in order to protect the most valuable asset of any business: its reputation. While IP might seem intangible, its impact on the economy and its importance to businesses cannot be underestimated. 

Les Hunt

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