Gowers Review of Intellectual Property

At the Enterprise Conference on 2 December 2005, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that, as part of the Pre-Budget Report 2005 package, he was asking Andrew Gowers to lead an Independent Review to examine the UK's intellectual property framework.

The Open Rights Group has been formally invited to participate. We are currently drafting our submission and wish to include your thoughts and opinions. We have reproduced the Call for Evidence below and invite you to contribute - just hit 'respond' next to the paragraph you wish to comment on.

Many of the questions asked by Andrew Gowers in this review are very focused, but you should feel free to comment on the issues and the wider implications rather than feel obliged to provide specific answers. If you want to talk about issues not raised by this call for evidence, please do - just leave your comments on the Introduction.

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  • Increasingly firms appear to be innovating collaboratively, and using cross- licensing agreements and “patent pools” to share their IP with other firms and reduce the need for costly and time consuming negotiations. However, while this may enable innovation among the firms involved, it may also increase barriers to market entry for others.

Some responses:

  • When firms collaborate it means that they can share resources and expertise in order to reduce the costs (instead of ...
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  • The widespread use of the Internet and the advent of high-speed digital networks has made it increasingly easy to copy and share digital information quickly, easily and without appreciable loss of quality. This has enabled widespread copyright infringement, most notably the use of file sharing technologies to download unlicensed music. It has been suggested that copyright exceptions lack clarity and are ill equipped to deal with these technological challenges. Furthermore public awareness of the boundaries of lawful use is low, and legal sanctions on infringement appear to lack clarity and consistency across different forms of IP.

Some responses:

  • It should be noted, of course, that the "advent of high-speed digital networks has made it increasingly easy to copy ...
  • The last sentence in this section seems important too. Copyright valuation can be rather ridiculous - the Curry case in ...
  • Put bluntly, the point being missed is: Need a decent encyclopedia? Try http://wikipedia.org (an encyclopedia created by the people for the ...
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  • There may also be a number of barriers to efficient markets for copyright licensing. A significant proportion of copyrighted works are presently unavailable because they have little private value to the existing rightsholder — they do not merit the cost of being re-issued. Such works are therefore inaccessible to consumers and to other firms wishing to license or purchase the rights, and it often becomes difficult to trace the authors and rightsholders of such works.

Some responses:

  • This points presents a case for compulsory copyright registration so that after the copyright expires, it can automatically become public ...
  • Compare and contrast copyright law with the Freedom of Information Act... Sensitive documents used to be stored for release after 30 ...
  • Sounds like gobbledegook to me - so much for my Oxford degree!
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The Review will provide an analysis of these issues, seek to identify others, and report with targeted and practical policy recommendations as appropriate. The Review will also fulfil the Government’s existing commitment to examine whether the current term of protection on sound recordings and performers’ rights in sound recordings is appropriate.

In many cases the Review’s recommendations will focus on how the Government might address these issues domestically. However, much of IP policy is agreed in an international context, and is often subject to EU legislation or international treaties and conventions. The Review may therefore also make policy recommendations at the international level, considering how best the Government can continue to take a lead internationally. It will bear in mind the need to balance the Government’s aims of promoting innovation, openness to trade and investment, and international development concerns. It will also consider how best to influence the European Commission’s agenda on intellectual property policy in the EU, including its review of legislation on copyright and related rights.

Moreover, with the increasing pace of technological change, in particular the spread of digital technology and growing use of the Internet, the Review will seek to provide a solid foundation for the Government’s long term strategic vision for IP policy, based on sound economic principles. Its key aim is to ensure IP systems remain appropriate in the face of global economic and technological change and the increased importance of the knowledge economy worldwide.

Some responses:

  • The review is all well and good so long as it has an effect at the end. And within a ...
  • A number of points: 1. This section claims that it will produce a strategic vision based on "sound economic principles", but ...
  • Yeah, right, whatever! Key point: If you want a knowledge-based economy (I do too btw.) then, err, free the knowledge ...
  • This consultation at the present time seems to take little interest in what is going on in the EU in ...
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Scope of the Review

The Review will examine all elements of the IP system, to ensure that it delivers incentives while minimising inefficiency. Specifically:

  1. The way in which Government administers the awarding of IP and provides support to consumers and business. The award and observance of IP should be predictable, and transparent, with minimal information costs and transaction costs for firms and citizens.
  2. The way in which businesses and other organisations use IP. The structure of the IP framework should reflect the impact of economic and technological change on the nature of intellectual assets and their importance to businesses across different sectors.
  3. How well businesses, other organisations and individuals are able to exchange and trade IP — in particular negotiating the complexity and expense of the copyright and patent systems, including copyright and patent licensing arrangements. Exchange of IP should be facilitated by accurate valuation, with no barriers in access to finance, and liquid markets.
  4. How well businesses and others are able to challenge and enforce IP. Litigation and enforcement should be swift, efficient and judicious with the optimal mix of technical and legal measures. Businesses should be aware of the range of alternative methods to challenge and enforce IP such as mediation and alternative dispute resolution. These methods should be relatively inexpensive, swift, efficient and transparent.

Some responses:

  • "the awarding of IP and provides support to consumers and business" - perhaps some kind of extra accountability for the ...
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