This article was published on January 26, 2011

The UK wants your help to make Intellectual Property fit for the 21st Century

The UK wants your help to make Intellectual Property fit for the 21st Century
Martin Bryant
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Martin Bryant


Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

The Internet has changed the way the world works over the past fifteen years, and yet many of the laws and frameworks that support it via intellectual property and copyright haven’t changed to reflect that.

The UK government is looking to redress the balance by holding a review aimed at ensuring that nothing holds back the country’s entrepreneurs and innovators from launching new products and services, particularly in the digital realm.

So, what kind of areas is the review, being conducted by a panel of experts in the field, looking at? Well, “Intellectual Property” takes in patents, trademarks, copyright, designs, business processes and brands. Announced at the same time as the East London Tech City project, the review will be ensuring that laws around all these fields are fit for purpose.

Take for example copyright. Chair of the review, Ian Hargreaves wrote recently on the review’s blog: “We… want to understand how well copyright arrangements designed around the needs of long-established and very important creative content industries like music, film and publishing work for newer digital industries, such as providers of social networks and other digital services.” In other words, are copyright issues holding back the growth of innovative new online music, film and publishing services?

Intellectual property is incredibly important to the UK’s future fortunes. As Professor David Gann, another panel member, explains, more value is now created in intellectual property than in traditional fixed capital.

“This IP capital needs to be put to work to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs needed in the UK and the billion new jobs the world will need in the next ten years,” he writes on the review blog. “These jobs are likely to come from new high growth companies… Many will be in sectors in which the nature of knowledge and services makes it difficult to assert and protect IP – e.g. in entertainment, media, food and retail industries. What is right for pharmaceuticals may not suit engineers and manufacturers, what is right for videogame designers may not work for musicians and artists.”

The review is covering a wide range of questions. An IPO spokesperson explained some of the issues to us: “Does our IP system adapt so as to be able to give the right kind of support to new kinds of product and service? Do software or games companies (for instance) find the system hits the right balance between encouraging innovation and protecting rights? Is the IP system accessible? Can SMEs get access to it and use it effectively? Do IP licensing processes work well? Does the system work for some industries better than others at the moment, or some players better than others? What evidence should we be looking at? Can businesses enforce their IP rights? How does IP interact with competition?”

How to get involved

The panel is looking to hear from anyone with an interest in the issues at hand, if they’re able to provide real evidence and positive insights to put into the discussion. So, whether you’re, say, an Internet startup with experience of working with IP, or a consumer with thoughts about copyright can be reformed, the review team wants to hear from you.

Responses can be made via comments on the review’s blog, or by formally responding to the call for evidence. There will also be an IP Review Surgery event taking place at the IPO’s office in London on 28 February. The deadline for responses in 1 March 2011. With this review affecting a lot of what we cover here on The Next Web, we’ll be watching its progress with interest.