UK Independent Review of "IP" and Growth

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the UK's "Independent Review of Intellectual Property and Growth", which is currently soliciting submissions from interested parties. The corresponding Web site is very helpful, providing background information and an entire section that seeks to explain what exactly the review is looking for.

In particular, it offers two very useful sets of questions, one about patents, and the other about copyright. There's also a page that deals with "enforcement" issues.

As I noted in my previous blog on the subject, what's striking is how frequently the word "evidence" is used in these. This really is about showing hard evidence about intellectual monopolies, not just stating opinions or beliefs.

I think that's really good news, because, so far, the industries built around intellectual monopolies have been allowed to make vague, feel-good statements about supposed benefits of patents and copyrights, and equally feel-bad ones about the supposed harms caused by infringement on them, without having to justify those claims. It's true that there is not much evidence out there, but in recent years more has come through, indicating fairly clearly that intellectual monopolies are not necessarily a good thing, and that infringement is not necessarily bad for innovation or growth.

What that means is that with this review we have an opportunity to marshal such evidence and present it in opposition to the status quo, which has largely been accepted unquestioningly – not least when it comes to expanding the terms and range of copyright. For this reason, I urge everyone that cares about patents and copyright – which means everyone that cares about open source and open content, since both of these are hugely impacted by laws relating to intellectual monopolies – to put together a submission, even if only a short one concentrating on one aspect that you feel strongly about.

To do that, it is important to read through the detailed guidance given, since it is clear that anything that does not address the central issues and provide objective evidence will be pretty much ignored. That does not mean it is not possible to move outside those guidelines provided the issues relate to the overall Terms of Reference, which are as follows:

The Review will develop proposals on how the UK's intellectual property framework can further promote entrepreneurialism, economic growth and social and commercial innovation. It will examine the available evidence as to how far the IP framework currently promotes these objectives, drawing on US and European as well as UK experience, and focusing in particular on:

Identification of barriers to growth in the IP system, and how to overcome them;

How the IP framework could better enable new business models appropriate to the digital age.

The last of these clearly includes new business models based on open source and on open content. Equally, the phrase "social innovation" in the first paragraph is a good way of describing the entire open source methodology of sharing and collaboration, and all that has flowed from it.

Since my submission will be quite long, I'll make it the subject of my next post, rather than extending this one even more.

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