Overhaul IP and copyright laws to help exporting SMEs

The UK government should 'resolutely pursue its international interests' in intellectual property and copyright, particularly in the notorious infringement markets of China and India, as part of a major overhaul of current laws, a report recommends.

Professor Ian Hargreaves says the UK’s intellectual property (IP) and copyright laws are ‘obstructing innovation and economic growth in the UK’, especially for digital businesses, and he has made ten recommendations to modernise the system.

His report Digital Opportunity, which has been published today, concludes a six-month review of the system that has found the laws are holding businesses back from taking opportunities both domestically and internationally.

Hargreaves writes, ‘Could it be true that laws designed more than three centuries ago, with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights, are today obstructing innovation and economic growth? The short answer is: yes.’

Prime Minister David Cameron announced a review of the laws during a speech launching the East London Tech City vision in Shoreditch, London, in November last year. He appointed Hargreaves, an academic and journalist, to lead the review.

One of Hargreaves’ recommendations is for the UK to pursue infringements of IP and copyright more rigorously internationally in the hope businesses that have shied away from exporting to emerging markets, such as India and China, because of the risk of infringement, will begin trading.

It also urges the government to make its ‘highest immediate priority’ to create a unified EU patent court and EU patent system, which the report argues will provide ‘significant economic benefits’ to UK business, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Politicians should ‘work to make the Patent Cooperation Treaty a more effective vehicle for international processing of patent applications’.

Another recommendation is for the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange by the end of next year that will act as a ‘one-stop online shop’ for business to seek clearance to use copyrighted content. It is hoped the move will make ‘the UK the best place in the world to do business in digital content’.

The report says the ‘prize’ is to build on the UK’s current creative content competitive advantage in licensing services for the global content market, and make the industry comparable to the country’s leading position in financial services.

If the government adopts all recommendations, the report estimates that between 0.3 per cent to 0.6 per cent will be added to annual GDP growth.

Professor Hargreaves comments, ‘In recent years, the UK has failed to make the changes needed to modernise copyright law, for which we will pay an increasing economic price as we make our way into the third decade of the commercial internet.

‘The recommendations of the review are designed to enhance the economic potential of the UK’s creative industries and to ensure that the emergence of high technology businesses, especially smaller businesses, in other sectors is not impeded by our IP laws.’

A full copy of the report can be found via the website.

Todd Cardy

Todd Cardy

Todd was Editor of GrowthBusiness.co.uk between 2010 and 2011 as well as being responsible for publishing our digital and printed magazines focusing on private equity and venture capital.

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