Brussels review of IP laws needs handling with care

Considering the speed at which both technology and business models progress, our well established IP laws will need to be considered for improvement, both domestically in the UK and also at the wider EU level. I welcome any move to look at legislation where there is an objective and credible case for change to reflect the modern day challenges.

But before we get the party hats and streamers out to celebrate this review it is important to understand the context and backdrop to which this review is taking place.

Given the speed at which technology has moved on in recent years, the European Commission is quite rightly trying to bring legislation up to speed with the technology; although we accept that the speed at which the laws are changed will never match the speed at which the technology evolves.

However, it is essential that the EC review the current standing of the IP system with the consideration of using the review as complimentary to current rules that also supports IP as a driver of growth. What needs to be avoided is making changes for the sake of changes, which disrupt all existing legislation and protocol thereby damaging IP/ creating uncertainty.

In the UK we have just had the Hargreaves Review of IP and the UK Government is yet to respond to that itself. At the same time consideration needs to be made to the anti-piracy provisions of the Digital Economy Act 2010. Yes, the Hargreaves Review may to an extent echo the Gowers Review from 2006, but this is not reason enough to suggest that IP laws need to be centrally controlled from Brussels.

Also we are still waiting for the UK Government to implement Article 4 of the Enforcement Directive. This would have promoted self-help enforcement by industry in dealing with piracy.

What I really fear is the consequences of the old adage of too many cooks spoiling the broth. There is little argument that currently the IP framework strategy needs to remain focused for growth. However there is definitely a natural concern over what the result may be.

We do have the IP gold standard to a large degree in the UK and there must not be an adverse impact on the UK software industry as a result of any Brussels-based alterations.

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Educated at The University of Kent and The College of Law, Julian Heathcote Hobbins is The Federation's General Counsel. Prior to joining FAST in July 2001, Julian qualified as a solicitor and has experience in intellectual property law including working at City law firm Theodore Goddard (now Addleshaw Goddard) on Anti Copying In Design (ACID) matters. Julian has a particular interest in the legislation relating to software, e-mail and Internet law (including Open Source and data leakage) with recent focus centered around Representative Rights under Article 4 of the Enforcement Directive and preparing numerous responses to Government on relevant consultations, for example, under the seminal Gowers Review of Intellectual Property.