In November 2017 the UK government published its Industrial Strategy. As part of this, the UK IPO made a broad ‘call for views’ from users of the UK intellectual property system on “products, services or other activities the IPO could undertake in order to make the most of the UK’s IP system“, and canvassed opinion on some of the IPO’s specific proposals. The IPO received 53 responses and on 21 May 2018 released a summary of their contents:
Voluntary Register for IP Rights – The idea of a voluntary register for unregistered IP rights looks set to be shelved following “a lack of broad support“. Many respondents were critical and commented on the additional legal and administrative burdens that could arise.
Standard Essential Patents – the consultation summary document strikes a non-committal tone on standard essential patents, stating “the government fully supports standardisation and remains committed to an open and balanced standards environment that supports global, fair and equitable market competition” and the IPO will explore how various measures might improve the framework, including improved guidance. This is a step back from the IPO’s (ambitious) proposal to offer a “system for the determination of licensing disputes between organizations operating in a field involving standards-reliant technologies“, as outlined in the consultation document.
Brexit – Exiting the EU was in the minds of many of the survey’s respondents. The IPO pledges to get “the right outcome for UK inventors, creators and consumers“. Until more is known about the UK’s exit deal and future trade relationship with the EU it is inevitable the IPO is unable to comment on specifics, but it says it has forwarded Brexit-related responses to “the relevant officials”. There is notably no mention of the UPC Agreement or any related survey responses.
IP Finance – The IPO has pledged to work with the British Business Bank and HM Treasury to improve access to finance for high growth IP-rich businesses. A pilot ‘Innovation Enabler’ fund will work with local enterprises and universities in the West Midlands to provide support to local SMEs in implementing an IP strategy and exploring new routes to finance. The IPO’s IP Finance Toolkit, first introduced in 2015, will also be reviewed to ensure its value in helping SMEs prepare for external investment.
Royalty Free Patents – No mention is made in the responses document regarding the IPO’s proposal to allow marking of patents as ‘free to use’ on their face. We can only assume that there was either a lack of engagement or support.