IPO Facto

Can you meet the standard? May 29th, 2014 by

The Government receives a wide range of submissions, from a wide range of organisations and individuals, all with the overriding objective of helping us understand the particular issues facing them and their business. But in order for us to be able to use that information and for it to influence the development of policy, it needs to be able to meet certain standards.

In 2012, following the Hargreaves Review of IP and Growth to which over 500 submissions were made, the IPO developed and published “Standards of Good Evidence for Policy”. Whilst the focus for this was IP and in particular the copyright field, due to the lack of publicly available evidence and longitudinal datasets, the standards are relevant to all forms of evidence submitted to Government.

question signSo what do we mean by standards? What are they and how can you meet them? We want evidence to be:

1. Clear: Is your document written in clear language, with a summary, and where possible without over-use of technical language? Are assumptions made in the study stated explicitly?

2. Verifiable: Can the conclusions of your analysis be verified by a third party and if there is data, is it in a suitable format for interested parties to view, analyse and draw comparisons?

3. Peer Review: Have the reports and submissions been made available to other interest-groups and the public to get feed-back and comments?

This is the aim…. but as we know, and as we have been told, meeting these standards is not always possible, and where you can’t, and it is extremely helpful to explain why. We know that smaller businesses face challenges in assembling evidence and their contributions. So we will look at these sympathetically, and of course, it will add to the evidence base if you can bring your experience to life through case studies.

So, send us your evidence! If you have doubts, concerns, or want to consider an approach to conducting your own research, we will happily talk to you and offer advice. The Standards will continue to evolve so if you have any feedback for us, let us know.

We are excited to announce the publication of the IPO’s new research programme for 2014-2015.  As readers of IPOFacto will be aware, our team commissions a wide range of IP-related research to build the economic evidence base. That evidence is key to the IPO’s policy deliberations.

Our reports cover economics, innovation and strategic aspects of IP.   You can read previous research publications here and the new research programme here.

We publish a research programme every year, and for 2014-2015, our research projects and areas of investigation have a strong focus on IP as an engine of growth.  It will include

–       Work to  build on earlier  enforcement research and  examine how IP enforcement can best support incentives for creativity and innovation

–       Evaluation of IP trading platforms to support follow up support IPO’s action plan to improve access to finance for IP rich firms.

–       Analysis of the IP framework in UK and how it supports the ‘8 Great Technologies’ identified in the government’s innovation strategy

–       Investigation of patent developments in emerging markets, including compulsory licensing, and their impact on innovation and competitiveness further afield


We are very fortunate to engage with a variety of renowned researchers, both UK and international academics and consultants.  Additionally, our research is discussed and peer reviewed by stakeholders, colleagues at the IPO and other government departments.  We don’t like to brag, but our research is well respected by IP economists around the world and is often cited.

Have you any thoughts on our new programme?  Interested in bidding for some of the topics listed?  Drop us a line at research@ipo.gov.uk or leave a comment below.  And watch our research pages as we publish our reports – upcoming reports from the 2013-2014 programmes include Measuring Infringement of IP Rights – a review of methodologies, 3D printing and Trademark Cluttering.

Trip down Memory Lane April 1st, 2014 by

This will be a bit of a departure from the usual blog as I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the newest member of the ERE team.  This blog is becoming an increasingly important tool for letting our stakeholders and customers know what we’re up to.  I am Julia Leighton and, as the new managing editor for the blog, I thought it would be interesting to look at how our approach to doing that has developed over the years.

I’ve worked in the IPO for over 20 years. I have held several roles during this time starting in the Patents Directorate, then in our Information Centre answering a range of  enquiries from professionals and members of the public, and working on IP education on exciting initiatives such as Cracking Ideas, and now the challenge of the ERE team.

As an organisation, the IPO has kept up with customer needs – from the lone inventor to professional bodies – to be kept informed. Inevitably, what our customers want has changed with the times: the Information Centre, or Central Enquiry Unit as it was originally known, is one example of how the IPO adapted to respond to customer needs. When the office recognised the need for a central point of information, trained people were drafted in from across the organisation to answer customers’ calls and make sure they got the service they needed.

Customer interaction has grown at a substantial rate and in ways I would have never imagined possible when I started 20 years ago.  The office now uses all aspects of Social Media to promote, involve and keep our customers informed. It’s clearly popular – in fact the IPO (@The_IPO) has a bigger Twitter following than the EPO and USPTO put together.

Hand holding letter O of choice

Which brings us nicely to this blog and the point of today’s post? How well do we communicate the work of the ERE team? We publish an updated rolling research programme every year (this year’s programme will be published very shortly, so watch this space!); we hold open peer review events to debate and discuss the findings of our research, and we publish all of our outputs including the underlying data and methodology on the IPO website.  And we also use social media and this blog to try and reach out to a wider audience.

But as Epictetus the Greek Philosopher said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”. So, my walk down memory lane has a purpose, and in taking on the management of IPO Facto it has made me think about how communication has changed within the office. As one of our readers, I want your feedback, comments and suggestions on how you can help us disseminate the findings of our work further. What more would you like and what more could we do with this blog?  I look forward to hearing from you… you can even write to me if you wish! research@ipo.gov.uk

Meanwhile, stay tuned for more exciting news as we kick off more research projects and publish more reports including the Government Response to Banking on IP and Estimating UK Investment in intangible assets.


“Have you got a patent?” ask the Dragons in the Den when deciding who to finance. But if a young entrepreneur goes to the bank for funding, they may not get the same approach.

02J80168British businesses of all shapes and sizes spend over £60 billion a year creating assets which can be protected by patents, trade marks, design rights and copyright. But when they take these investments to their bank to ask for loan finance to grow, the response is usually that ‘IP doesn’t count’.

November‘s independent report “Banking on IP?” set out to understand – with banks and others – what can be done to use Intellectual Property in finance deals. This would release the investment and growth potential of IP for firms and for financial markets.

The report found reasons why IP is not recognised as an asset for lending:

  • understanding firms’ IP assets, and value, seems complicated and costly; and
  • IP value is seen as too uncertain to be covered by a reasonable risk premium – especially with the business risks of new markets

The combination of high costs and high risk is what makes banks see IP as an unsuitable asset against which loans can be made. After talking through the conclusions with a range of stakeholders, four key themes for action are starting to emerge:

1. Awareness Raising: There is still much to do to raise awareness in business – especially amongst smaller firms and those in the financial services industry – and to encourage understanding of IP as an asset.

2. Facilitating Dialogue: Even when businesses understand what IP they hold, there is scope for framing a better dialogue between business and financial services professionals.  Businesses need to be able to articulate what they have, how it is secured and how it supports the future cash flow of the business.  There is an appetite for tools and templates to help.

3. Confidence: To lend, the financial services industry needs confidence that the business will be able to repay the loan. Greater understanding and improved dialogue will help, but the report states that insurance also has an important role of play. Insurance models for IP can be used to underwrite loans, and effectively separate business risk from IP risk for lenders. This would make decisions at credit approval faster and lower cost. We’ve seen this model develop in the US.

4. IP Markets: Feedback tells us that the lack of mature markets for IP is a problem when trying to work out the value of an individual asset. The development of these markets, with better data to underpin them, would help build confidence.

We are grateful for the time and expertise that stakeholders have given so far. It is clear that the Government cannot do this on its own.  In the next few weeks the IPO will be following up these themes with willing partners, and looking to prepare a response from Government with practical solutions for implementation.

Today’s post is brought to you by Michael Reda, Assistant Economist at the IPO.

Traffic congestion, intellectual property rights (IPRs) and my housemates’ tendency to use unfeasible quantities of water and electricity might seem unrelated, but they are all manifestations of the tragedy of the commons: an economic concept which shows up in all manner of places.

 The tragedy of the commons is often described in the context of an 18th century village bordered by a grassy common, where the locals rely on the wool trade for their income. The more sheep a farmer is able to graze, the more wool the farmer can sell. If any farmer wants to use the common, noone has the right to charge them money or turn them away. But if the common is overused, it will be stripped bare and the village will be destitute. Since each farmer benefits from higher wool sales the more they graze their sheep, but only has to bear a fraction of the cost to the village (slightly less grass), the common is overgrazed and eventually depleted. Each farmer has made choices which are sensible on an individual level, but the collective outcome for the village is something 02I93738which noone would rationally choose.


The upshot of this story is that when property rights aren’t allocated and goods are instead held in common, society as a whole sometimes loses out. Everyone has the incentive to appropriate as much as they can of the resource and privatise the benefits. And the opposite occurs with investment: if someone considered investing in the resource, (planting more grass or extending the common) they would very quickly realise that they must shoulder the full cost but will only be able to access a fraction of the benefits. The private and social costs of people’s choices are unbalanced. The result is that people take out too much and put in too little.

 How does this relate to Intellectual Property (IP)?

There are two main ways in which the logic of the above example applies to IP. They are both what economists refer to as ‘market failures’: the first leads to too little investment and innovation, the second to too many restrictions on the knowledge needed as an input to innovation.

 It takes time and money to produce an innovation or creative work. But with no IP protection, the benefits of this investment will be diffuse: think of it as extra land for the common. So in the same way as in the example above, the common resource (society’s knowledge and technology) doesn’t receive enough investment.

 On the other hand, if the IP regime allows too many IP registrations, ideas which could feed in to greater innovations risk being appropriated for private gain. Since commonly held knowledge can be freely built upon by others, its enclosure carries a social cost which exceeds the fees and time paid by the applicant.

 A patent, for example, encourages people to add to the commons. Continuing with the analogy, in return they can fence off this ‘land’ for 20 years to exploit it personally, before it becomes commonly held. But since ideas can be used as intermediate steps to bigger ideas, their enclosure may stand in the way of other innovations. Innovation needs both incentives and freedom.

 What can be done?

Over time, economists have suggested several potential solutions to the general problem (some more practical than others!). These solutions apply mostly to tangible goods or physical places. One is to divide up the resource and allocate property rights. Another is to tax in proportion to usage, although this is less efficient. The resource could also be administered by an authority with the power to regulate use. Finally, cultural rituals and implicit social threats are probably the oldest solution to this problem. These solutions all work by changing people’s behaviour (by aligning private and social interests).One of the greatest societal challenges is figuring out how to address the tragedy of the commons in a way which is equitable, sustainable and ultimately benefits us all. Going back to IP, the key is balance. The IPO’s task is to make the best use of theory and evidence to find the policies which defend both the freedom and the incentives to innovate.


Just before our holiday break, we have a guest post:

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Zbigniew and I work in the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education. In November I was seconded to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), in the Economics, Research & Evidence (ERE) Team for one month. My stay at the IPO was a result of Polish-British Secondment Programme for Regulatory Impact Assessment Teams. The main goal of the Programme is to familiarise Polish civil servants with the UK Government’s approach to Impact Assessments (IAs).

ZbigniewDuring my stay at the IPO I got involved in several projects looking at IP-backed finance and exceptions to copyright. Thanks to the support of the ERE team, I was able to gain an insight, within a month, of the most important features of IPO’s approach to pursuing evidence-based policy, in particular at the stage of preparing IAs.

An important part of my secondment was a three day visit to the Secretariat of Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), an independent body responsible for scrutinising IAs in the UK. At RPC I participated in meetings and worked on case studies which gave me a better insight into the role of RPC in the better regulation agenda.

My secondment was also a great opportunity to learn more about the UK Civil Service and its organisational culture. At the beginning I found it difficult to work in open plan rooms, however after few days I got used to it and today I must concede that working in such an environment has many advantages. I can also say that I was really impressed at how open your administration is to stakeholders. It is one of many things Poland can learn from you!

Many thanks to my colleagues both in London and Newport IPO offices who were very supportive and always eager to answer my questions (even if the questions did not always make sense). I am truly convinced that the experience  I have gathered here will be valuable in my career in the Polish Civil Service. I look forward to sharing my experience with colleagues at home.

Building (layer by layer!) on our previous post on 3D printing, today we are taking a look at some new work by our esteemed Patent Informatics colleagues.  Their long-awaited report looking at patenting in 3D printing gives us a unique insight into what innovation is actually taking place. 

topo mapThe Patent Informatics team, IPO gurus in IP data, have analysed 9,000 patent records from 1980 to 2013.  Having tackled the first challenge of identifying which patents should be in focus (“3D printing”  is a broad term and its descriptor has changed over the years from rapid prototyping to additive manufacturing), the team sought out relevant data from journal sources and the trade mark register to build a complete picture of this complex technology area.

The research finds that, as the graph below shows,  patenting linked to 3D printing has sky-rocketed in recentpublication year of patents 3d years with patenting hotspots emerging, in particular linked to healthcare including bone implants, medical devices and dental implants.

In this fast-growing technology area inevitably, the report opens up as many questions as it answers: as 3D printing grows, what will the next areas of growth be?  How will customer use impact 3D printing patent activity? Is 3D printing “at the peak of the hype cycle” as the report mentions?  What are the wider implications for our IP regime? Might there be trade-marking issues?

We would be interested in your views.   How do you think 3D printing will affect IP? 

Meanwhile, stay tuned for more exciting 3D printing news as we kick off more research projects examining all dimensions of this growing market.

Facts, not assertions! On 13th September Ofcom hosted the joint Ofcom/Intellectual Property Office workshop on Standards for Good Evidence. Hosted by Charlotte Waelde (University of Exeter), the event emphasised the need for collaboration in defining research questions and the production of good evidence.

Justin Le Patourel of Ofcom provided an overview of the latest, and final, instalment of the Ofcom Online Copyright Infringement research. The comprehensive survey of over 20,000 people looks at the extent and reasoning of copyright infringement in six content types: music, TV, film, books, software, and video game. Funded by the IPO, managed by Ofcom, and produced by Kantar Media, the project provides a benchmark of online copyright infringement data for future studies. The latest instalment completes the picture for the whole year and is one of the largest studies of its type anywhere in the world.

Key findings of the presentation included:facts not opinions

  • Infringement is an activity carried out by the minority, with 17% of all internet users accessing content illegally.
  • The top 10% of infringers account for 74% of all infringed content (and make up just 2% of all internet users).
  • Overall, infringers spend more on content than non-infringers (though this was driven by TV and music expenditure).
  • 44% of all internet users were not confident in knowing what is and isn’t legal.

Liz Bales (Industry Trust for IP Awareness) presented research insights into who infringers are and how best to raise awareness with them. The ICM conducted study interviewed 2,720 individuals online in July and August 2013. The research enables greater understanding of the market environment and consumer behaviour towards infringement. Although smaller than the Ofcom Copyright Infringement Research, many of the findings were similar. There was recognition that those engaging in unofficial activity are the industry’s main customers and are also more likely to engage in authorised activity if the unofficial sources become unavailable.

The study also tracks the progress of the ‘Moments Worth Paying for Campaign’  – where education is used as a tool to inspire and inform people where they can access more content legally. Collaboration with production companies has enabled information to be embedded into film commercials such as Iron Man 3 and Despicable Me 2 showing content can be accessed by consumers above board (Both here).

Dennis Collopy (Hertfordshire University) provided an overview of Hertfordshire’s assessment of infringement research methodologies. The study, commissioned by the IPO, reviews the methodologies identifying the scale of infringement across the four main intellectual property rights: Copyright, Patents, Trade Marks and Design Rights. Key points included:

  • To ensure research is of a standard to influence policy, transparency and disclosure of methodology are vital for credibility.
  • A more collaborative approach between industry and government is needed.
  • Publically available data can serve as a benchmark for industry and industry generated market intelligence should be collated.

Charlotte Waelde chaired a panel discussion on the IPOs Good Evidence Guide – panellists included Tony Clayton (IPO) and Tim Drye (Audiencenet). It was agreed that the IPO guide was not being followed in most cases and that there is often a lack of consistency in methodology and approach between research. Tony confirmed that the IPO will be amending the Good Evidence Guide, taking into account suggestions for improvement, including the addition of qualitative evidence to complement quantitative research. Tim emphasised the need for simple, straightforward and transparent research with industry disclosing their data wherever possible to bolster the credibility of research.

Charlotte Waelde provided closing remarks to the event by recapping on those themes recurred throughout the presentations. Participants emphasised the need for a collaborative approach between industry and government to construct an evidence base. The event concluded with further praise of the Ofcom Online Infringement research and hope that it will continue.

For the full write up of the event please follow this link.

Interested in working with the most productive Intellectual Property office economics and research team in the world? Come along to our “Research Open Day” in London tomorrow at 02A15FF0our office in Abbey Orchard Street.

You will have the chance to meet members of our research and procurement team who will explain the tendering process and the finer details of our research requirements. We have a long history of working with researchers and will be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have.

If you would like to register for the day please contact us. For the opportunity to tender for IPO research, please register your interest with our procurement department.

Who are we?
The Economics, Research and Evidence (ERE) team are a small group of experts within the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) that work closely with policy leads to help build a better understanding of IP rights and how they operate within the UK economy. They identify and define specific questions and the answers their research generates provides evidence to inform policy decisions.

As well as stakeholders, lobbyists, end users and folk such as Andrew Gowers and Ian Hargreaves, it is often policy leaders within the Intellectual Property Office who identify key issues with policy and current legislation. Following the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) published its guidance on standards of evidence used in the development of policy.

In recent years the team has worked with academia and industry to help develop the economic evidence base and forge relationships in the intellectual property research community, nationally and internationally. The IPO research programme proposed for 2013 /14 builds on this work.

The research we commission is independent and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the IPO. This means we publish a wide variety of work from different disciplines and research organisations. A peer review process provides us with an indication of how well the research is likely to be received by all interested parties and provides direction for further research in this area.

Want to know more? Please contact our research team.


4September saw IPO host a conference on patent use alongside Brunel University at the Big Innovation Centre in London.  The event was attended by academics and representatives of patent offices from around the world along with legal practitioners and industry IP users.

The conference presented findings from the Survey of Innovation and Patent Use that IPO had part funded with the Economic & Social Research Council, but there was certainly more brain food on offer.

It was a day of two halves

  • The morning session concentrated on surveys around the use of patents
  • The afternoon session focused on the use of patents in innovation.

Time was devoted between presentations for global stars in patent research and industry IP users to put their minds towards various pressing questions such as:

  • The legitimate non-use of patents rather than simply blocking competitors;
  • Measuring the social cost of un-commercialised patents;
  • What is the structure of the UK market for technology transfer in the UK;
  • The usefulness of IP brokers;
  • The lack of price discovery and transparency in IP markets;
  • The pros & cons of technology licensing at various stages in the patenting timeline.

It would be unfair on the various presenters (and me) to attempt to sum up their research in a blog so I shall simply provide links to the presentations and offer highlights from the presentation or discussion.

 “Use and non-use of patents in the US and Japan” – John Walsh (Georgia Tech University, USA).  Findings include a 60% level of commercialisation for triadic patents; applications filed for protection in the US, Japan and at the EPO.

“The economic use of EPO patents: evidence from the Patval surveys” - Salvatore Torrisi (University of Bologna, Italy).  It appears that it is not easy to identify a public policy that would stimulate growth and reduce the transaction costs in the market for technology.

 “Innovation and Patent Use: Findings from the SIPU survey” – Ashish Arora, Suma Athreye and Can Huang.  Developed a new measure of propensity to patent’ taking into account whether a firm is genuinely innovative.

“Do Patents Shield Disclosure or Assure Exclusivity When Transacting Technology?” - Beth Webster (Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia).  The increased ability to fully disclose an idea after patenting may not help in the trading of technology.

“Buyer Behavior in Markets for Technologies” – Ayfer Ali (Universidad Carlos III, Madrid).  An exploration of the licensing of medical technologies and the possible reasons for an apparent lack of demand.

“Deals Not Done: Sources of Failure in the Market for Ideas” – Iain Cockburn (Boston University).  Highlighted the reasons why technology deals fail at various stages in the licensing process.

“Imperfect Information, Patent Publication, and the Market for Ideas – Deepak Hegde (New York University, USA).  Earlier disclosure through 18 month publication shortened the time for licensing of patent applications not licensed until after allowance after the change in the US law (American Inventor’s Protection Act 1999).

The panel sessions sparked a lively debate.  Highlights of the cerebral discussion were:

  • Non-practising entities, known as patent trolls (a topic which will inevitably jump out from under the bridge).  Is this really a new phenomenon? And does anything need to be done about it?  Examples were given of the early days of the railroads and the behaviour of an owner of patents covering braking systems.
  • Does measuring the value of IP licensing deals reflect technology transfer or is this distorted by profit shifting for tax purposes?
  • Discussions on the use of the Patent Box as an incentive to renew patents which would otherwise have little value.
  • The difficulty for companies to find technologies they want to license because of the haphazard availability of information and high search costs.

Hopefully this gives you a flavour of the day’s activities, which I’m certain was considered a success by all those who took part.  I encourage you to follow the links above for a more in-depth look at the great work which was presented.