Intellectual Property reforms to help British business but the devil is in the detail

26 Jul, 2013

UK businesses are set to benefit from amendments to the Intellectual Property Bill according to the Law Society of England and Wales.


This week changes to the Bill were debated in the House of Lords, including measures to reduce costly litigation and provide parties with greater certainty over what intellectual property is and isn’t protected by the law.


Law Society Intellectual Property Working Group Chair Isabel Davies said the Bill lays the foundation for the UK to take part in the new EU wide patent system and will be a welcome development for many businesses.


“This is very significant constitutionally as a court over which the UK has no direct control will have the power to make orders relating to activities in the UK. A great deal more work on this aspect of the legislation is needed.


“Strong intellectual property rights benefit the UK economy however we remain concerned that some of the proposed amendments put UK businesses at a competitive disadvantage,” Ms Davies said.


Under the proposed changes the UK will be required to provide protection to entities based in overseas jurisdictions even when those jurisdictions do not offer reciprocal protection to UK entities.


The Bill also introduces criminalisation of design infringement, a significant new measure which follows a spate of high profile infringement cases in the courts.


“The Law Society supports a criminal offence for design infringement if it is limited to counterfeits or other safeguards are built into the legislation. It’s vital that we strike the right balance between providing adequate protections for design owners but avoid creating an environment where criminal sanctions can be used inappropriately.


“In principle the Law Society supports the spirit and direction of the legislation however there are a number of areas which require clarification and further refinement,” Ms Davies said.


The Law Society supports new exceptions to infringement where they have no significant impact on a rights holder’s interests, but argues that further honing of the draft provisions is necessary to ensure that their scope is properly defined.


Further discussion about the opinions service for patents is also needed. Under the proposed changes, legal opinions will not be binding. The Law Society argues the opinions should be given greater force to stop them being used as a tactical play in litigation.


As the Bill moves through Parliament, the Intellectual Property Working Group will continue to scrutinise the impact of the Bill on the intellectual property marketplace and make recommendations on behalf of intellectual property practitioners.

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