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General Election 2015: What do the parties say about IP? (IP – Hit or miss?)

Keltie LLP

K2 IP Limited

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SONY DSCStill on the fence about the general election? Well, fear not as IPcopy is here to give you a run down on the most important policy area of them all. Yes, it’s time to look at what the parties have got to say about Intellectual Property.

Rather than subject ourselves to having to read the manifestos of the various parties (we’re not masochists you know), IPcopy has located PDF copies of the manifestos for the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the SNP and has performed a word search for any of the following terms: patent, trade mark (or trademark), design (IP related design references only), copyright, intellectual property.

So, here we go….

con logoConservatives (Manifesto – PDF)

According to the Conservative manifesto, “Britain will be the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and set up and expand a business“. No mention why the UK will be the best place though…

In order to promote British food abroad the Conservatives aim to set up a “Great British Food Unit” which apparently is going to “help trademark and promote local foods around the world and back British food at home, by guaranteeing that all central government departments purchase food to British standards of production by the end of the Parliament“.

Support for the creative industries is also highlighted and the Conservatives will “protect intellectual property by continuing to require internet service providers to block sites that carry large amounts of illegal content, including their proxies. And we will build on progress made under our voluntary anti-piracy projects to warn internet users when they are breaching copyright. We will work to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst-offending sites“.

So, the Conservatives at least do mention IP in a few different contexts. Despite the “breach” vs “infringement” faux pas above, IPcopy awards a marginal IP Hit to the Conservatives.

lab logoLabour (Manifesto – PDF)

IP Miss (by a mile). No hits at all on the above terms.

lib dem logoLiberal Democrats (Manifesto – PDF)

The Liberal Democrats fall somewhere between Labour and the Conservatives (nothing new there then) and have one mention in their manifesto to IP based issues. The Lib Dems will: “Support growth in the creative industries, including video gaming, by continuing to support the Creative Industries Council, promoting creative skills, supporting modern and flexible patent, copyright and licensing rules, and addressing the barriers to finance faced by small creative businesses.

Marginal IP Hit

UKIP logoUKIP (Manifesto – PDF)

IP Miss (by a mile). No hits at all on the above terms.

SNP logoSNP (Manifesto – PDF)

IP Miss (by a mile). No hits at all on the above terms.

Plaid Cymru logoPlaid Cymru (Manifesto – PDF)

Not a huge amount about IP in this manifesto and certainly no real detail. However, there is one reference to “intellectual property” as follows:

We also continue to oppose the EU-US free trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. We are concerned that it puts too much power into the hands of international corporations, threatens to weaken our democratic institutions and undermine hard-earned improvements in public services, intellectual property, food safety, health and environmental standards. We oppose any part of this deal that may lead to the privatisation of the NHS.

Marginal IP Hit

Green Party logoThe Green Party (Manifesto – PDF)

Compared to the other parties the Green Party hint at some larger ideas in the IP world. Namely, they suggest the Green Party would:

  • Prevent the patenting of genes and living organisms
  • Make copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible, and prevent patents applying to software

The manifesto also states that the UK needs “copyright laws that reward creators but that are consistent with digital technologies“.

So this looks like an IP Hit. However, a little bit of extra digging reveals a Green Party economy policy document.

Motherlode!

This policy document contains a lot on intellectual property and states that the Green Party’s “general presumption is to encourage the Green value of greater sharing and to make it more difficult to obtain patents and similar forms of protection than at present“. Hmm, “more difficult” that’s not a great start….

The policy document then says that the Greens will make it “impossible to patent broad software and cultural ideas“. No mere tightening of the patent system here. No, it will be “impossible” to patent broad ideas.

The document continues and states “we would generally shorten patent terms and relate them to the timescale of innovation in the industry concerned“. International funding (perhaps a Tobin tax) would enable certain patents of global, social and environmental usefulness to be bought out from their owners with the patent then becoming freely available. In the event that the Green Party cannot push through such a “minor” tweak to the IP landscape then they will enable the government (don’t they mean they would enable themselves?) to nationalise a patent if it was in the public interest, the creators of the patent being compensated (Inventor or applicant? I’m pretty certain they’re not suggesting that the drafting patent attorney will be compensated!).

As far as copyright is concerned then the Green Party will abolish Crown copyright, shorten copyright terms to 14 years maximum (no indication if this is from creation or life + 14 years), legalise non-commercial peer-to-peer copying (Game of Thrones?) and liberalise fair use policies.

The Green Party would also “restrict the value of claims for intellectual property violations to a proportion of the monetary gain made by the commercial exploitation by the user, and not allow damages”.

Hmm, I may downgrade this to an IP Miss.

So, there you have it. IPcopy’s brief and in no way biased or indeed comprehensive General Election 2015 rundown. Happy Voting.

Mark Richardson 27 April 2015


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