Gowers publishes Review of IP system

Numerous reforms to IP law and procedure recommended

Andrew Gowers’ Review of Intellectual Property in the UK, initiated by the Chancellor Gordon Brown, was published today. It found that the current IP system is fundamentally strong, but made a number of recommendations for improvement.

Arguing that intellectual property has never been more important than in today’s increasingly knowledge driven economy, the Review recommends reforms aimed at strengthening the enforcement of IP rights, providing further support for British businesses use of IP in the UK and abroad, and striking the right balance between promoting innovation and ensuring markets remain competitive.

As expected, the Review recommends keeping the term of copyright protection for sound recordings at 50 years, which will disappoint Sir Cliff Richard and others who have been campaigning for an extension. The Review’s other recommendations include:

  • new powers and duties for Trading Standards to take action against copyright infringement;
  • tougher penalties for online copyright infringement – with a maximum 10 years imprisonment;
  • lowering the costs of IP litigation – by encouraging mediation and consulting on fast-track procedure (including capped fees, limited disclosure and stricter time limits);
  • a new system of fast track registration for trade marks, to take around 3 months;
  • consultation on the use of civil damages and ensuring an effective and dissuasive system of damages exists for civil IP infringement;
  • possible legislation in relation to Internet Service Providers liability for acts of IP infringement carried out through their services, if self-regulation has not been shown to work effectively by the end of 2007;
  • ensuring that only genuinely illegitimate activity is proscribed, including by introducing exceptions to copyright to provide a ‘private copying’ exception, to enable consumers to format-shift content for personal use, an exception for creative, transformative or derivative works, and an exception for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche;
  • keeping under review the issue of a general law of unfair competition;
  • ensuring patent rights remain within current limits in the areas of software, business methods and genes;
  • restructuring the UK Patent Office as the UK Intellectual Property Office, to provide greater support and advice for businesses using IP domestically;
  • business representatives to sit on a new independent Strategic Advisory Board on IP Policy to advise the Government; and
  • improving Government support and advice internationally;