UK report calls for reforms to intellectual property law

19 May 2011 | News
The UK should make achieving a unified EU patent system and patent court the highest immediate priority and update its copyright laws for the digital Internet age

An independent review of the UK’s intellectual property laws to consider how they should be reformed to promote innovation and growth has called for the government to make the EU single patent and patent court its, “highest immediate priority.”

The review also calls for the formation of a Digital Copyright Exchange - a digital market place where licences in copyright content can be readily bought and sold online. The UK should also support moves by the European Commission to establish a framework for cross border copyright licensing, the review says.  As a major exporter of copyright works, there would be clear benefits of this to the UK.

Complementing this recommendation, there should be updates on what it is lawful to copy, to reflect the new realities of the digital age, says the review. This includes allowing copying for private purposes, such as transferring music from a laptop to an MP3 player.

It also includes copying that does not conflict with the core aims of copyright – for example, digital copying of scientific journals for computerised analysis in research. The review points out that at present it would not be legal for an academic working on malaria cannot draw on previous research through data mining because they cannot get permission to copy the datasets they need to mine.

Alongside working for a single EU patent, which the report says, “promises significant economic benefits,” the UK should work to make the Patent Cooperation Treaty a more effective vehicle for international processing of patent applications.

There should also be moves to promote international efforts to remove patent thickets and other obstructions to innovation, in particular aiming to cut backlogs and to manage the boom in patent applications by further extending work sharing with patent offices in other countries.

The review recommends that patents are not extended into areas as non-technical computer programs and business methods, which they do not currently cover, unless it can be demonstrated that there are clear economic benefits.

It is also the case that the role of IP in supporting the design industry has been neglected. To address this, there should be an assessment of the relationship between design rights and innovation, with a view to establishing a firmer basis for evaluating policy at the UK and European level.

Small companies can find it hard to access the IP system, and to help them the UK’s Intellectual Property Office should draw up plans to improve accessibility. This should involve access to lower cost providers of integrated IP legal and commercial advice.

The review is available here.

Never miss an update from Science|Business:   Newsletter sign-up