Two steps in IP

The government has taken one step forward and one step back in its policy over intellectual property (IP).

The step forward is the appointment of IP attachés to UK embassies around the world.  These attachés will pressure foreign governments to crack down on infringements of the IP rights of UK companies and citizens, it announced in a debate last week.

Step back

The step back is a delay in its response to the Hargreaves Report which was published in May.  The Government promised a response by the summer recess but missed the deadline.  It now says it will respond in August.

The main Hargreaves proposals were:

  • Create a Digital Copyright Exchange where people could register their works and trade the rights;
  • Clarify copyrights so that individuals can copy a work they have bought onto other media without breaking copyright law;
  • A review of patent law;
  • Reliable and affordable advice for small and medium enterprises on IP.

Reviews but little action

The problem is that every four to six years there has been a review of IP.  And little happens after these reviews.

The creative industries, which depend for their survival on IP, are a growing part of the UK economy.  As Hargreaves points out:

“Every year in the last decade, investment by UK business in intangible assets has outstripped investment in tangible assets: by £137 billion to £104 billion in 2008. Global trade in IP licences alone is worth more than £600 billion a year: five per cent of world trade and rising. Small and young innovative firms are of crucial importance in terms of growth and jobs but proliferating use of IP rights can push up IP transaction costs and block these new players from entering markets.”

The Government should use Winston Churchill’s command often written on reports: “Action this day”.

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