U.K. Intellectual Property Review

By Ashling, Jim | Information Today, February 2007 | Go to article overview

U.K. Intellectual Property Review


Ashling, Jim, Information Today


In December 2005, Gordon Brown, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, requested that the U.K. intellectual property system be reviewed by an independent source. Brown commissioned Andrew Gowers, the former editor of the Financial Times, to lead the review. One year later on Dec. 6, the 150-page "Gowers Review of Intellectual Property" was published.

According to the report, the U.K.'s economic competitiveness in the modern world is increasingly driven by knowledge-based industries, innovation, and creativity. Intellectual property (IP), designed to protect and promote innovation, has never been more important, said the report. It also noted that the U.K. music and movie industries lose about 20 percent of their turnover through pirated CDs and illegal online file sharing.

While the review concluded that the U.K. has a fundamentally strong IP system, it sets out important targeted reforms grouped in the following three areas:

* Strengthening enforcement of IP rights to protect the U.K.'s creative industries from piracy and counterfeiting

* Providing additional support for British businesses using IP in the U.K. and abroad

* Striking the right balance to encourage innovation and investment in new ideas while ensuring that markets remain competitive and that future innovation is not impeded

Balancing the Rights of Producers and Users

"The ideal IP system creates incentives for innovation, without unduly limiting access for consumers and follow-on innovators," Gowers said. "It must strike the right balance in a rapidly changing world so that innovators can see further by standing on the shoulders of giants. And it must take tough action against those who infringe IP rights at a cost to the U.K.'s most creative industries."

While he did not suggest that the system needs radical overhaul, Gowers listed at least 54 recommendations, many of which are particularly relevant to patents and to the music industry. Specific recommendations that have attracted attention include the following:

* Recommendation 3: The European Commission should retain the length of protection on sound recordings and performers' rights at 50 years.

* Recommendation 4: Policymakers should adopt the principle that the term and scope of protection for IP rights should not be altered retrospectively.

* Recommendation 9: Allow private copying for research to cover all forms of content (this relates to the copying, not the distribution, of media).

* Recommendation 10a: Amend Section 42 of the CDPA (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act) by 2008 to permit libraries to copy the master copy of all classes of work in a permanent collection for archival purposes and to allow further copies to be made from the archived copy to mitigate against subsequent wear and tear.

* Recommendation 10b: Enable libraries to format shift archival copies by 2008 to ensure that records do not become obsolete.

* Recommendation 13: Propose a provision for orphan works to the European Commission, amending Directive 2001/29/EC.

* Recommendation 17: Maintain a policy of not extending patent rights beyond their present limits within the areas of software, business methods, and genes.

* Recommendation 46: Establish a new Strategic Advisory Board for IP policy (SABIP) that will cover the full range of IP rights, reporting to the minister responsible, by 2007. The board should be drawn from a wide range of external experts as well as key senior policy officials from relevant government departments and should be based in London.

Reactions from Library and Industry Groups

Since the report was published, responses and reactions to the recommendations have emerged. Speaking for The British Library (BL), chief executive Lynne Brindley welcomed the report: "We are particularly pleased that the Gowers Review recommends allowing private copying for research and copying for preservation reasons by libraries to cover all forms of content. …

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