Hargreaves report reveals IP law is too restrictive

Posted on 27 May 2011 by The Manufacturer

A new report by journalist and academic Professor Hargreaves has revealed that the UK’s intellectual property framework needs adapting to continue to promote innovation and growth.

In November 2010, the Prime Minister announced a review of the IP regime in the UK, focussing on how IP can drive growth and innovation. The subsequent report headed by Hargreaves highlights that copyright law must be updated to ensure that the legal framework continues to support the UK’s current competitive advantage in creative content.

The Report warns against over regulation and propounds the benefits of developments to the IP system to ensure coordination with other jurisdictions and particularly with respect to the implementation of the unified EU patent court and EU patent system.

According to Eversheds’ Industrial Engineering Group: Copyright law now extensively influences industries outside the creative sphere. However, it has begun to operate as a regulatory barrier to the creation of certain kinds of new, internet based businesses. In particular, the copyright regime was not considered fit for the digital age when millions of citizens are in daily breach of copyright by format shifting. The Report notes that the economic effect of copyright piracy was not as stark as expected, albeit there was little independent, reliable research on it.”

A number of specific recommendations were made with the aim of the promoting economic growth. Amongst these included the creation of a digital copyright exchange, the release of orphan works, and the broadening the permitted exceptions.

The opportunities presented by Professor Hargreaves are clearly set out. It is estimated that the enacting of the recommendations would add 0.3%- 0.6% to UK annual GDP growth.

This IP review is the fourth in six years. Earlier recommendations have not been progressed or followed through. It remains to be seen to what extent and with what speed these recommendations will be taken forward. The Government may feel that the costs of enforcement have already been achieved by the recent revamp of the Patents County Court. A Digital Copyright Exchange would, however, represent a truly innovative step that would likely promote economic growth for the benefit of the UK.