The government has recently published the outcome of its consultation on maximising the incentives of the IP (intellectual property) system to stimulate collaborative innovation and licensing opportunities.
The call for views was one of a number of initiatives on IP announced by the government as part of its Industrial Strategy in November 2017. Views were sought as to what products, services or other activities the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) could undertake to maintain the UK's IP system as one of the leading IP jurisdictions in the world.
Following a review of the 53 responses received, the IPO has identified which of the example proposals outlined in its call for views it intends to take forward:
IP finance: in the sphere of IP finance, the primary 'intervention' of the IPO will be to work with businesses, lenders, insurers, the British Business Bank and HM Treasury to overcome the barriers to high growth, IP-rich firms, using their IP to access growth funding. In addition, a pilot 'Innovation Enabler' fund will be introduced in the West Midlands to support local SMEs develop and implement an IP strategy. The IPO also intends to review its 'IP Finance Toolkit' (launched in 2015) to adopt a more targeted approach for increasing "investor readiness".
Business to Business toolkit: an IPO/ industry working group will be set up to develop a 'Business to Business toolkit' to help to facilitate business collaborations. Responses showed support for the creation of B2B models along the lines of the Lambert Model IP Agreements, launched in 2005 to facilitate collaboration between universities and businesses.
Standard Essential Patents: the IPO will explore how various measures might improve the existing framework, ensuring that a balance is struck between reward for innovation and access to standardised technology.
Out of the other example proposals put forward in the call for views, there was little support for the IPO to establish IP Trading Platforms, nor the introduction of a Voluntary Register for unregistered IP rights, in view of the additional legal and administrative burdens this could create.
Despite the number of responses received in relation to Brexit, the IPO's response is rather brief simply confirming that its focus is on "getting the right outcome for UK inventors, creators and consumers". It did, however, state that all responses relating to EU Exit have been directed to the relevant officials for consideration. This may come as a disappointment to many of the respondents who were hoping for some insight and/or assurances about the IP system post-Brexit, for example, in relation to the protection of unregistered design rights. However, given the current uncertainty around the Brexit deal and the UK's future relationship with the EU, this is unsurprising.
Making the most of your IP
A strong theme throughout the responses was that, Brexit aside, more work needs to be done to capitalise on the UK's strength in innovation and research and development by helping users to understand the IP system and how to get the most out of their IP. As such, the IPO has committed to reviewing and enhancing the educational tools and services it offers to focus on the "strategic protection and commercialisation of IP".
This is a positive step and shows the importance of businesses, especially start-ups, being able to recognise the IP that exists in their propositions and how best to protect this to ensure successful commercialisation.