Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Intellectual Property: Changes on the Horizon

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) last week published a document outlining proposed strategy for dealing with Intellectual Property (IP) infringement.

‘Protecting creativity, supporting innovation: IP enforcement 2020’ can be viewed here.

The document sets out how the UK IPO will concentrate future actions in the following key areas:

1.    Reducing the level of illegal content online

Making it easier for consumers to recognise and avoid copyright-infringing Websites by:
  • Reviewing notice and takedown procedures to improve and streamline the process and consider the scope for introducing a Code of Practice for intermediaries;
  • Examining the scope for introducing a system of notice and track down to enable rights holders to take action directly against the identified infringer;
  • Pushing within Europe for clarification of the current EU rules around platform liability and improving the current system to allow rights holders to more effectively protect and legitimately exploit their copyright; and
  • Developing our understanding of the challenges posed by set-top boxes and IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), and work with partners to tackle this emerging and fast growing method of infringement.

2.    Tackling the trade in counterfeit goods

The IPO will be working as the focal point for a number of other government bodies collectively attempting to address this. It will be doing this by:
  • Continuing to provide a dedicated intelligence hub to support the delivery of key objectives under the Home Office Serious and Organised Crime Strategy;
  • Continuing to invest resources in helping those countries identified as key sources of counterfeit goods improve their IP laws, identify criminals and stem the flow of illegal goods to the UK;
  • Encouraging the use of the UK Poise framework – a framework for future IP enforcement initiatives created by IPO – among international organisations such as Europol, Interpol, OLAF, EUIPO and the UN to help protect IP rights in the UK;
  • Helping to develop broader disruption measures with law enforcement agencies and regulatory authorities to make IP crime less attractive for criminals. This includes encouraging the increased use of POCA in IP investigations to ensure that money spent in the UK on counterfeit goods is identified, seized and assets removed from criminals, and work with HMRC to tackle unpaid tax and duty on IP infringing goods, for the benefit of the UK treasury.

3.    Further strengthening the legal framework to facilitate easier access to justice

There will be a review of existing legal resource to ensure UK business have adequate legal means to protect their IP and have the means to take necessary legal action, examples may include:
  • Looking at the case for introducing specific legislation to respond to the emergence of fulfilment houses (companies that specialise in warehousing and packing for others), which are increasingly being used to facilitate the sale of counterfeit, unsafe, smuggled and mis-described goods in the UK;
  • Considering what legislation would be effective in addressing the growing problem of illegal streaming via set top boxes. Protecting creativity, supporting innovation: IP enforcement 2020; and
  • Investigating the scope for legislation to take action against search engines, ISPs and platforms that facilitate or otherwise support those involved in infringement and counterfeiting.

4.    Increasing education, awareness and building respect for IP

The IPO intends to become the primary source of IP enforcement information in the UK, and by working with industry partners, law enforcement agencies and stakeholders in the public and private sectors educate the public as to the harm of infringement and the benefit of using legitimate options. It will do so by:
  • Helping businesses through the UK PatLibs network at their 16 regional centres, the majority based in city centre libraries, to support, develop and increase understanding of IP enforcement;
  • Offering enforcement advice and information for business advisors through IPO workshops and IP Master Class training;
  • Delivering the IPO funded IP Audits Plus programme, including the enforcement of rights, aimed at businesses with growth potential;
  • Educating consumers to engender greater respect for IP rights, by:
  • Supporting industry in promoting the diverse sources of legal content available to UK consumers by promoting UK sites that aggregate sources of legal content, such as and  This extends at the European level where we are playing an active role in the EU’s efforts to develop similar resources for each and every member state;
  • Encouraging and supporting industry partners in promoting greater respect for IP through products and services aimed at children and students, our future innovators, reaching teachers by providing IP education resources and lesson plans linked to the curriculum via the IPO’s Cracking Ideas portal and supporting competitions; and
  • Delivering enforcement information to university students via the IP Tutor tool.

5.    Making it safer for UK rights holders and businesses to trade internationally

The IPO states its intention to work in conjunction with global partners and stakeholders to achieve improvement.
  • Using economic evidence to set the context of IP infringement. This demonstrates that IP infringement and IP crime is not victimless, but has a real cost, for example in terms of loss of tax and other receipts, its links to organised crime, and the harm to consumers through dangerous products. We show the benefits of a fit for purpose IP system – its contribution to a country’s economy – and try to explain that a well-functioning global IP system is in everyone’s interests;
  • Engaging at a high-level. Using senior Government interaction to reinforce our messages with international partners, and holding regular dialogues with our counterparts in key markets. We use these opportunities to set out what we see as UK best practice and leadership on enforcement issues; and
  • Providing practical training and engagement for IP enforcement practitioners (such as Police, Customs, and Trading Standards equivalent). This is provided through an appropriate mix of project-based external providers and UK experts in IP enforcement.

6.    Improving the evidence base

The IPO is looking at ways to understand the scale of infringement and the impact of policy on trends. Methods for achievement are varied but will include:
  • Developing a comprehensive scoreboard to be published annually and combining the available data on the prevalence of civil and criminal IP infringement;
  • Developing more accessible civil and criminal IP court data; and
  • Making it easier to record IP offences.
The UK IPO’s plan is for this strategy to take shape over the next four years. The various complexities will see some outcomes delivered quicker than others, but overall this documents indicates a strong commitment on the UK IPO’s behalf to tackle IP infringement.