Call for leadership on intellectual property

2006

Britain needs a government minister for intellectual property if it truly wants to promote, protect and nurture enterprise, captains of industry have said.

The call by the Confederation of British Industry has called for the formation of a cross-departmental organisation, overseen by a dedicated "Minister for IP".

The British government is currently undertaking a review of the country's intellectual property framework to meet the challenges of the digital age.

The Treasury-backed independent review, much of which is focused on copyright issues, is being overseen by former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers.

CBI director general Sir Digby Jones said: "If the Government is committed to an enterprise economy, as it consistently claims to be, it should appoint a Minister for IP – as knowledge is becoming increasingly vital to the future success of the UK economy.

"The UK's ability to compete in the global economy depends on how it harnesses its knowledge and creativity. Only then can it create real value from innovation in the global marketplace and in the digital world," he urged.

"IP has become too important an issue to be just one of a number of responsibilities for a minister. We need a dedicated IP minister to take strategic charge of IP issues across government and address the disparate challenges facing the UK," Jones added.

"Copyright alone generates over 8 per cent of GDP and yet it is handled with little ministerial input as a subset of patents at arms length from the concerns of the copyright industries," he continued.

"This must change. The importance of copyright needs to be recognised and it must be given the prominence it deserves," he added.

"It is also disappointing that problems remain for small and medium-sized firms and individuals wanting to access the patent system.

"They continue to be hampered by costs and red tape. Incentives given through the tax system would help small firms cover the costs associated with applying for a patent," Jones concluded.

The big issue over IP is that advances in technology over the past few years have made it possible to replicate almost any product anywhere in the world, which in turn can have a huge impact on business and the economy.

The review is looking into the way intellectual property rights are awarded, the financing of the patent system, and issues involving litigation and enforcement and "fair use" of copyrighted products by consumers.

It is also assessing whether the current technical and legal IP infringement framework is secure enough to cope in the digital world.

Gowers has said he wishes the review to "ensure that we maintain a world-class environment for creativity, design and innovation".

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