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IP Czar suggested at UK IP Bill committee stage


The UK’s Intellectual Property Bill has been discussed in The House of Commons’ committee stage today, with the creation of a dedicated “IP czar” among the suggested changes.

The committee stage in UK Parliament marks the first time amendments can be made to any of a bill’s proposals.

The bill, which stems from recommendations outlined in the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, an independent review of the UK’s IP strategy, was approved by the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the UK parliament, last year.

It has received two readings in the House of Commons, the second on January 24, but must pass three readings before becoming law.

Individual clauses and amendments are made during the committee stage.

The bill will then go back to the commons were further amendments are considered and debated, before the House of Lords will consider any changes.

Lastly, the bill will need to have royal approval before becoming law, but this is seen as a formality.

The bill is being led through parliament by Conservative government minister David Willetts.

However, during the discussions, Iain Wright, a Labour Member of Parliament (MP) and shadow minister for business, innovation & skills, said there should be a new clause introduced to the bill which introduced a “champion of IP” similar to the US’s IP czar.

“If the US, the most open and free market nation on earth, can have one [an IP czar] why can’t we have a similar person in the UK who will protect and champion IP?

“Whether it be a director general or a minister, there is a need for an individual with direct access to the government,” Wright told the committee.

Wright added: “At the moment it’s simply not happening and it seems secondary consideration.”

Wright added that Mike Weatherley, a current advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron on IP-related issues, would be an “ideal” candidate for the proposed role.

Weaterley said while he “agreed in principle” with the suggested clause, a debate was needed to determine exactly who the person in the new role would report to and in what capacity.

However, Keith Hodkinson, partner and chair of Marks & Clerk LLP in London, said he thought the clause was an ill-thought out idea and was as “an excuse” to find someone to do a job where the department responsible was not delivering.

“The czar would likely take responsibility for ensuring there is good coordination between agencies for enforcement of IP, such as the IPO [Intellectual Property Office] and the courts. To achieve that, you simply need departments to talk properly.

“To me it seems like an MP has simply seen that it happens in another country and thought it should be done here.”

During the meeting, MPs also spoke about the bill’s proposals on design rights.

Of the bill’s provisions, one of the most controversial suggestions is the possibility of introducing criminal sanctions for the copying of designs.

A possible prison sentence of up to 10 years has been outlined for people who infringed upon existing designs.

“I do realise criminal sanction raises strong feelings for and against,” said Willetts, adding that it was not the government’s intention to “deter anyone who legitimately innovates around an existing design.”

Willetts said the government proposed to enter the word “intentionally” before "infringe", while Wright suggested the word “deliberately” should be inserted.

Willetts said: “We consider intentionally does job better than deliberately – in current legislation the word intentionally is already recognised by courts and dealt with very effectively.”

Hodkinson said: “I completely agree with the Willetts amendment, I am sceptical about the criminalisation aspect full stop but I very much hope the amendments made by Willetts will be accepted.”

The committee stage is expected to continue this afternoon.

IP czar, ip bill, designs, House of Commons, UK Parliament

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