The “Hargreaves Report” Gives a Roadmap to Revising IP Law in the UK

In October of 2010, Ian Hargreaves, a global thought leader in intellectual property matters, was appointed Chair of Digital Economy, based jointly in Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and Cardiff Business School.

The following month, English Prime Minister Cameron commissioned Hargreaves to perform a review of the legal framework underlying intellectual property in the UK, fearing a risk that the current intellectual property framework might not be sufficiently well designed to promote innovation and growth in the UK economy.

What has become known as the “Hargreaves Report” has just been published. The detailed report answers the Prime Minister’s question (“…yes, we have found that the UK’s intellectual property framework, especially with regard to copyright, is falling behind what is needed”), and supplies alternative remedial strategies.

The Report’s specific recommendations would support growth of the UK’s increasingly intangibles-intensive economy. This requires:

  • an efficient digital copyright licensing system, where nothing is rendered unusable because the rights owner cannot be found;
  • an approach to exceptions in copyright which encourages successful new digital technology businesses both within and beyond the creative industries;
  • a patent system capable of preventing heavy demand for patents causing serious barriers to market entry in critical technologies;
  • reliable and affordable advice for smaller companies, to enable them to thrive in the IP intensive parts of the UK economy;
  • refreshed institutional governance of the UK’s IP system which enables it to adapt organically to change in technology and markets.
According to Hargreaves, if the Report’s recommendations are acted upon, the result will be stronger rates of innovation and increased economic growth.

It's probably the near-world recession and its devastating effects on governments and individuals alike that is stirring the pot, as it's clear policymakers worldwide are taking hard looks at intellectual property rights and their effects on sustainable growth in both developed and third world economies.  Just in the US alone, 1) the House version of the patent reform legislation still waits approval and compromise, 2) USPTO Director David Kappos has a blog, is making key policy speeches, and was quite visible in the recent budget battle, 3) Fed Chair Bernanke put his toe in the IP waters in a basic but fundamentally reassuring presentation at Georgetown University on Monday (more on this speech in the inaugural IP Value Wire, coming soon), and 4) the FTC has just released a voluminous look at where they feel IP law insects fair competition.

Working under the hypothesis every incentive creates an equal and many times undesirable disincentive, we will endeavor to distill what the inevitable policy clashes mean to analysts engaged to value intangible assets and all the stakeholders.

It does appear to us there is a built in synergy already in place that will help fulfill Hargreaves' first point above, as the Report seeks "an efficient digital copyright licensing system, where nothing is rendered unusable because the rights owner cannot be found," in that Android and Apple Smartphones already track users' locations.  In other words, Ian, there's an App for that.