The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property was published on the 6th December 2006. Whilst finding that the UK IP system is broadly performing satisfactorily, it provides 54 recommendations for progress. The recommendations include introduction of a limited private-copying exception allowing consumers to format-shift legitimately purchased content, strengthening enforcement measures in relation to IP rights, and a consultation on fast-track litigation in IP cases. The Review recommended retaining existing approaches in a range of areas, including the 50 year copyright term for sound recordings and for patents not to be further extended in the fields of software, business methods and genes.

As most recommendations are to be preceded by public consultation or, in some cases, relate to changes to EU law (eg Recommendation 45 in support of an EU court for cross border disputes), the extent of their implementation to date is limited. The government has yet to indicate its position with regard to the majority of the recommendations. On 27 November 2006, nine days prior to the publication of the Gowers review, Lord Sainsbury (Minister for Science and Innovation from 1998 to 2006) was commissioned to produce a review of science and innovation policies. The Sainsbury Review will report to the government on R&D, knowledge exchange, technology collaboration and patents in time for the Comprehensive Spending Review, publication of which is expected in October 2007.

There has however been some tangible progress to date. The UK Intellectual Property Office has published a list of the Gowers Review recommendations pertaining to it, together with a proposed date for action on each, and certain recommendations have already been acted upon beyond a planning or consultation stage. Notable progress to date is as follows:

  • The Review provides for the DTI to Investigate how best to provide practical IP advice to UK firms operating in foreign markets, in coordination with industry bodies, the Patent Office and UK Trade and Investment (Recommendation 28). The UK government has launched a pilot program to offer small companies IP audits enabling them to protect and garner the full value of their IP. Under the scheme forty businesses which have formally filed little or no intellectual property will receive a three-day IP audit by the UK IP Office working with regional development agencies. The project forms part of a new Innovation Support Strategy, produced by the UK Patent Office.
  • The Patent Office changed its name to the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) on the 2nd April 2007 to reflect the breadth of work undertaken (Recommendation 53).
  • Section 107A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) came into force on 6 April 2007 (as provided under Recommendation 42) giving trading-standards authorities noteable powers in relation to copyright infringements, including the ablility to make test purchases, enter premises and inspect and seize goods. The Treasury is to provide a further £5 million funding in 2007/08 for Trading Standards to implement their new powers.