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Reviewed 4 November 2010

Independent review launched to ensure IP system promotes growth

An independent review into how the intellectual property system can better drive growth and innovation has been launched today.

Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled the six-month review during a speech at a major event in Shoreditch before an audience of business people.

He spoke about how the Government can help make Britain the most attractive place in the world to start and invest in innovative technology companies.

He revealed the Government had published a Technology Blueprint that spells out how the Government will support high-tech innovation, including reviewing the IP system.

Mr Cameron said:

"I can announce today that we are reviewing our IP laws, to see if we can make them fit for the internet age."

The Blueprint also reveals the Intellectual Property Office will trial a peer to patent project, which will allow people to comment on patent applications and rate contributions to help improve the quality of granted patents.

The six-month review aims to identify barriers to growth within the IP framework, which consists of the rules and regulations covering how IP is created, used and protected in this country.

It will particularly focus on how the IP system can be improved to help the new business models arising from the digital age.

Baroness Wilcox said:

"The future of the economy lies in the highly skilled, technology sectors. For many of those companies their intellectual property is their most valuable asset.

"We must ensure the intellectual property system helps not hinders those companies.

"This review will look at what changes can be made to our intellectual property system to ensure it helps firms grow.

"The internet has fundamentally changed the business landscape. Some sectors, such as the creative industries, have been transformed by the internet. The intellectual property framework must keep pace.

"An IP system created in the era of paper and pen may not fit the age of broadband and satellites. We must ensure it meets the needs of the digital age."

The review will look at:

  • Barriers to new internet-based business models, including the costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders;
  • The cost and complexity of enforcing intellectual property rights within the UK and internationally;
  • The interaction between IP and Competition frameworks;
  • The cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing services to help them protect and exploit their IP.

The review will also look at what the UK can learn from the US's "fair use" rules covering the circumstances in which copyright material may be used without the rights-holder's express permission.

The review will make recommendations on the changes the UK can make as well as the long-term goals to be pursued through the international IP framework. It is expected to report in April next year.

The IPO will also trial a peer to patent project, which aims to improve the quality of the patents by ensuring they are sufficiently new and inventive.

Patent examiners cannot be expected to have access to all the information already in the public domain and this project aims to address that.

In the trial selected patent applications would be available for people to comment on and crucially rate each other comments. The highest rated comments would then be submitted to the patent examiner.

Baroness Wilcox said:

"This project aims to reduce the number patents being granted for ideas and inventions that are not new or inventive. It will result in fewer disputes and legal challenges providing more certainty for businesses.

"We are looking to use the vast array of knowledge out there to improve the patent system for business."

The Review takes place against a background of measures already in hand to to improve the IP system for businesses. The UK is at the forefront of efforts to bring about a cost-effective, business friendly EU patent. The IPO is extending the free online IP Healthcheck tools which deliver tailored IP audits free to SMEs.

Notes to editors

  • The Intellectual Property Office is within the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills and responsible for the national framework of Intellectual Property rights, comprising patents, designs, trade marks and copyright. Its role is to help manage an IP system that encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of consumers and users, promotes strong and competitive markets and is the foundation of the knowledge based economy.
  • IPO Press Officer: Paul Conroy 020 7215 5303

Date of release: 4 November 2010