11 Apr, 2012

Is the IPO in danger of ‘straying from its true purpose’?


The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is concerned about the Intellectual Property Office possibly expanding its remit in a way that could interfere with the role of the courts to decide on the extent of copyright.


Responding to the IPO’s recent consultation where it asked whether it should produce guidance notices for courts to interpret copyright legislation alongside a dispute resolution service, Julian Heathcote Hobbins, General Counsel at FAST said: “In a constantly changing world it is right that we keep our eyes open for the need to reform, however we should not forget that, taken as a whole, the existing set-up for software copyright currently works very well.”


“The issues that we need to address are two-fold. Firstly, we need to improve access to the court process by establishing a small claims court for copyright cases – in much the same way as we have in existence for recouping small debts. Many software houses are either small or micro-sized businesses and simply do not have the time or money to go through lengthy court processes. This would speed up the judicial process and significantly reduce costs for pursuing a claim.


“Secondly, we need to ratchet up enforcement measures to put off the infringer where there is no deterrence. Ultimately, it does not matter how good your laws and regulations are, if you can’t enforce them they are worthless.”


In its formal response to the IPO consultation, FAST stated that it:


believes that this is not the best way for it [the IPO] to fulfil its purpose. Notwithstanding the implications for court independence, including the doctrine of the separation of powers and the ethical issues surrounding a single organisation advising, mediating and in effect judging on copyright disputes, there are far simpler ways to increase access while not challenging the general success of the copyright regulations and legislation that is already in place for software.


FAST is also asking the UK government to implement Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and Council on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, with a particular focus on Article 4. This would give FAST the right in civil law to take legal action in protecting its members in its own name.


Julian continued: “Many of our members are reluctant to pursue their customers for copyright infringement for fear of damaging their long-term customer relationship. By allowing FAST to pursue copyright infringers in its own name this issue can be avoided. This period of reform of both the copyright and intellectual property framework is the perfect time for the government to allow properly constituted representative bodies such as FAST to take a more effective role in meeting the needs of our members.


“The IPO needs to stay in areas true to its intended remit. We need other improvements for the small software house to protect its livelihood and foster growth.”

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