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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Call for Evidence

This call for evidence will form a key part of the evidence base that the Review team can use to develop its analysis. It will be used alongside a range of other evidence sources, including quantitative data; surveys and views of representative groups; visits; seminars; and interviews. We encourage stakeholders to submit evidence in three areas:

  • First, we invite evidence on a series of General Questions for each of these elements of the IP system identified. These are set out below.
  • Second, there are also a number of Specific Issues on which we would particularly welcome evidence. These are also set out below.
  • Finally, we also invite respondents to highlight other issues on which the Review should focus its attention that are within our scope, but not listed below.

NB: We welcome responses that only cover one or a few of the areas described, as well as responses relating to questions on IP that have not been explicitly set out below.

Some responses:

  • I'm rather sceptical about stakeholder theory, but if that's the way they want to play it... We should be arguing that ...
  • I find myself very sceptical about the way evidence will be collected and from whom !. What questions are asked, what ...
Leave a response and read 2 »

Limitations of Review Scope

The Government conducted a Review of Government Information in 2000 (Cross Cutting Review of the Knowledge Economy – Review of Government Information, July 2000), as part of the Cross-cutting Review of the Knowledge Economy, and has since implemented the EU Directive on the Re-use of Public Sector Information (EU Directive 2003/98/EC on the Re-use of Public Sector Information, 17 November 2003 (PDF)) through the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 (The Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005). We wish to make clear that Crown Copyright, Parliamentary Copyright, and the regulations governing Public Sector Information are therefore specifically outside the scope of the Gowers Review. However, it is likely that the Review will have relevance to public sector organisations, for example through its examination of copyright more generally, and of how IP is licensed and exchanged.

The Patent Office is currently consulting on two specific intellectual property issues: the inventive step requirement in UK patent law and practice; and the way UK trade mark applications are examined on the basis of their potential conflict with earlier trade marks. While we would encourage interested parties to participate in these consultations via the Patent Office website – www.patent.gov.uk – we wish to make clear that issues related to the inventive step and the registration of Trade Marks are not outside the scope of the Review.

General Questions

  1. How IP is awarded

    (a) Are there barriers to obtaining IP rights due to system complexity? What could be done to improve this situation?
    (b) How easy is it to find out about obtaining IP rights? What could be done to improve awareness for businesses and innovators? Is there sufficient awareness of the need to protect IP internationally?
    (c) Are there barriers to obtaining UK IP rights on grounds of cost? What drives these costs?
    (d) How do these costs compare internationally in your organisation’s experience?
    (e) Do you have any comments on the UK Patent Office fees structure for obtaining and renewing IP protection?
    (f) Is lack of trust in the system a barrier? To what extent do you rely on other tools to bring innovation to the marketplace, such as being first to market, maintaining trade secrets, or using an open innovation model to generate value through reputation or network effects?
    (g) Are there specific barriers to obtaining IP rights in your sector?
    (h) Are there specific barriers to obtaining IP rights for small businesses or individuals?
    (i) How well does the national system for awarding IP, administered by the Patent Office perform? How well do the international and European systems work?

Some responses:

  • 1. a) Apart from cost (although this is included in cost), the complexity and precise requirements mean that our view is ...
  • (a) I agree with the above comment. I hold a patent from one of my former jobs, and it would ...
  • I agree with previous comments. At a business meeting talking to a Patent Lawer about taking out a patent he just ...
Leave a response and read 3 »
  1. How IP is used

    (a) What types of IP does your organisation use and why?
    (b) To what extent do you seek multiple overlapping forms of IP protection?
    (c) To what extent are these decisions influenced by sector-specific considerations?
    (d) How does your company value its IP? Are there problems with raising finance against intangible assets based on IP? What improvements could be made in this area?
    (e) To what extent does the term of IP rights at the margin affect investment decisions?
    (f) How well does the UK IP system promote innovation?
    (g) To what extent does your organisation make use of other methods used by Government to encourage innovation, such as public funding?
    (h) Are data on the use of patents and other forms of IP useful as a means of measuring innovation?
    (i) Do you have any evidence as to the static or dynamic costs that IP rights (as statutory monopolies) impose on the economy?
    (j) Have you encountered patents or other IP rights being used defensively, i.e. obtained not to develop products, but only to prevent others from doing so? Under what circumstances do you consider this acceptable?

Some responses:

  • 2. a) As a software development company, we make exclusive use of copyright. We do not hold any trademarks nor any ...
  • I belive it would be helpful for the law to address, and allow clearer exemptions for thrid parties that offer ...
  • I have 30-odd patents. These were all filed by large companies for use in a portfolio. I have worked for ...
  • A collegue was stopped from doing work for a company because they wanted indemnity from IP but because they were ...
Leave a response and read 4 »
  1. How IP is licensed and exchanged

    (a) How easy is it to negotiate licences to use others’ IP for commercial or non-profit purposes?
    (b) What mechanisms do you use for finding potential licensing partners?
    (c) How easy is it to use others’ IP for research purposes? Have you experienced difficulty around research exemptions?
    (d) Are there specific barriers to licensing in the main forms of IP currently used: patents, copyright, trade marks, and designs?
    (e) Are there barriers to licensing IP on grounds of cost? What drives these costs?
    (f) Are there specific barriers to licensing IP in your sector?
    (g) Does your organisation use methods to facilitate exchange of IP – such as cross- licensing or pooling IP rights with other firms or organisations?
    (h) Are there specific barriers to licensing IP rights for small businesses or individuals – for example barriers to entry to patent pools?
    (i) Are there barriers to trade and exchange of IP internationally?
    (j) Does your organisation consider renewing patents using “licence of right” provisions in patent law (which entitle any person to a licence under your patent and reduce your renewal fees by half)?
    (k) What could be done to improve “licence of right” provisions and business awareness of them?
    (l) Do you have any experience of the compulsory licence provisions within current patent law? Are they effective? How could they be improved?