Home » General Interest » The General Election, IP and R&D – a look at the manifestos for #GE2019

The General Election, IP and R&D – a look at the manifestos for #GE2019

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Image by John Mounsey from Pixabay

It’s General Election time. Again.

Even though the UK has been through four major votes since 2014 (Scottish Referendum in 2014, General Election in 2015, EU Referendum in 2016, General Election in 2017) the Powers That Be were clearly spooked by the lack of an opportunity for the UK electorate to vote on something major in 2018 and so are bringing us General Election 3: It’s Brexmas Time (There’s No Need to be Afraid).

The main parties might want you to believe that the election is about the chance to ruin our relationship with our main trading partners even further or the ability to nationalise anything that moves but we all really know where the main policy action is. Yes, it’s time to see what the parties have to say about IP.

IPcopy has therefore taken one for the team and has waded through the manifestos for the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the SNP  (and also the Brexit Party’s “Contract with the People”) to see what they have to say about: patents, trade marks, designs (IP related design references), copyright, the unitary patent and unified patent court. We’ve also had a look to see what’s been said about research and development.

So, ready? Here we go….

Conservatives (Manifesto here; Costings document here)

con logo

There’s precious little as far as references to Intellectual Property terms are concerned so a bit of an “IP Miss” on that front. On the issue of R&D however the manifesto states (on page 40) that domestic R&D spend is to be increased to 2.4% GDP. We couldn’t see a particular timescale associated with this pledge however.

R&D Tax credits get a mention on page 34 of the manifesto where the Conservatives pledge to increase the R&D rate to 13% and to review the definition of R&D “so that important investments in cloud computing and data, which boost productivity and innovation, are also incentivised“.

Labour (Manifesto here; Costings document here)

lab logo

Back in 2015, when Ed Miliband was giving bacon sandwich eating masterclasses, there wasn’t a single mention of IP or IP related terms in the Labour Party manifesto. That’s all changed this year though and the manifesto builds on the patent related themes that were raised in this year’s party conference (see earlier IPcopy post “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn! A look at Labour’s “Medicines for the Many” Policy Paperhere).

[Sidenote: As far as IP and the Labour manifesto is concerned, IPcopy caught themselves singing “Evil Pharma” to the tune of the chorus from The Osmonds’ Crazy Horses more than once….]

The Labour manifesto and associated costings document have quite a bit to say about patent related matters. Page 35 of the manifesto follows the conference suggestion that Labour will establish a generic drug company and will use the Patents Act provisions and compulsory licences to secure access to generic versions of patented drugs. IPcopy’s earlier post covers this subject in more detail but there appear to be some unintended consequences from this line of thinking, namely the possibility of conflicting with TRIPS and opening up a whole raft of new cases for patent litigators to get stuck into.

Page 54 of the manifesto suggests that the copyright system will be reviewed in the context of fair remuneration for artists and content creators. Page 105 of the manifesto says, right after another reference to the right to essential medicines that they will promote fairer international patent regimes. Possibly this is a hint that they know about the restrictions that the TRIPS provisions will put on their plans?

Page 17 of the manifesto sets a target of 3% of GDP to be spent on R&D by 2030.

The costings document has a couple more IP nuggets. Page 40 of the costings document says that Labour will phase out Patent Box. The R&D tax credit system comes under scrutiny here as well with Labour planning to phase out R&D tax credits for large corporations but to keep the SME scheme. A National Investment Bank will provide investment via direct funding instead.

Liberal Democrats (Manifesto here; Costings document here)

lib dem logo

Flexible patent and copyright rules are mentioned on page 19 of the Lib Dem manifesto in the context of the creative industries but it’s not clear what this means. R&D tax credits are also mentioned on the same page with the suggestion that claims against the cost of purchasing datasets and cloud computing will be allowed. Some similarity here perhaps with the Conservatives manifesto. Page 18 of the manifesto says that the Lib Dems will aim for R&D spending to hit 3% of GDP at some point (timescale to come) but that they will hit 2.4% by 2027.

Green Party (Manifesto here)

Green Party logo

Page 52 of the manifesto mentions somewhat vaguely “modernising and reforming copyright and IP rights legislation” in the context of the creative economy. There are a number of references to funding research but we couldn’t find a specific GDP target.

SNP (Manifesto here). We couldn’t see anything of note, as far as IP or R&D are concerned, in the SNP manifesto.

SNP logo

Plaid Cmyru (Manifesto here). We couldn’t see anything of note, as far as IP or R&D are concerned, in the Plaid Cymru manifesto.

Plaid Cymru logo

The Brexit Party (Contract here)

Brexit party

There are relatively slim pickings in Nige’s offering with a reference on page 19 to supporting medical R&D and stopping the taxpayer being ripped off by pharma companies (Evil Pharma – reprise).

So, there we have it. With the exception of the Labour Party who are aiming to target the impact of IP on the pharma industry there is relatively little on the subject of IP in the manifestos. No trade mark or design related issues have been raised which, given the potential impact of Brexit on these two IP rights, is a little disappointing. And there’s no mention that we can see at all about the unitary patent or Unified Patent Court.

Mark Richardson 27 November 2019


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