Hargreaves review urges government to modernise IP law

The much anticipated Hargreaves Review, instigated by Prime Minister David Cameron last November, has urged the government to overhaul the current IP system in the UK to ensure that new forms of digital business can thrive without falling foul of copyright law.

Author of the report Professor Ian Hargreaves announced that the current UK IP system is out of date and unable to support new forms of business. "We have found that the UK's IP framework, especially with regard to copyright, is falling behind what is needed," he asserted. "IP law must adapt to change. Digital communications technology involves routine copying of text, images and data, meaning that copyright law has started to act as a regulatory barrier to the creation of certain kinds of new, internet based businesses." Prof Hargreaves noted that, with future innovations on the horizon such as mobile payment systems and smart grid technologies, it is vital that this problem is addressed quickly to allow new types of business to grow. "In copyright, the interests of the UK's creative industries are of great national importance," he said. "Digital creative industries exports rank third, behind only advanced engineering and financial and professional services. In order to grow these creative businesses further globally, they need efficient, open and effective digital markets at home, where rights can be speedily licensed and effectively protected." Hargreaves believes the next wave of digital technologies and services is likely to create opportunities and disruptions in a broad range of industries. "The internet of things – billions of devices and components with an internet address, enabling them to communicate in massive sensing systems – coupled with cloud computing, will underpin more sophisticated applications, and thereby a host of new services. Digital wallets will replace cheques and credit cards, personalised electronic adverts will compete with static hoardings and firms will offer us advice and services built on analysis of this kind of data – assuming IP law allows them to copy and manipulate it." As well as advising that the Intellectual Property Office conducts an evidence based assessment of the relationship between design rights and innovation, the report highlighted the need to improve accessibility of the IP system to smaller companies. "This should involve access to lower cost providers of integrated IP legal and commercial advice," Hargreaves noted. "It should also involve access to lower cost providers of integrated IP legal and commercial advice." In conclusion, Hargreaves advised that the UK should 'resolutely pursue' its international interests in IP, particularly with respect to emerging economies such as China and India: "In developing the UK's IP framework to maximise economic growth and innovation, copyright presents our biggest challenge, but also our biggest opportunity. The challenges from changing technology and patterns of innovation extend well beyond the UK. By adopting the evidence based approach advocated by the review, the UK has the chance to help shape global responses to these challenges, and so position itself to take best advantage of the opportunities they offer internationally."