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Monday, 14 September 2009

New plan to boost UK in global IP "arms race"

The IPKat is delighted to discover that the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) unveiled late last week its six-point plan "to help underpin the UK’s reputation as a world leader in developing and exploiting intellectual property".

The old approach (right) was to repel invaders. Now they are welcomed, so long as they've got the money to invest ...

According to the organisation's press release, "All government policies should pass the test of whether they make Britain a more attractive place for innovative businesses to invest in, develop and exploit their ideas" ["More attractive" has two dimensions to it, notes the IPKat -- more attractive than it is at present, something which should not be hard to achieve, and more attractive than other places, which will require a good deal more effort]. The CBI is also pressing for the research and development tax credit to be extended, with serious consideration to be given to introducing a "royalty box" system used in Belgium [Good idea! You can read a little more about the Belgian royalty box system on IP Finance here] with the outcome that revenues from certain areas of IP, such as drug patents, would be taxed at a lower rate, encouraging R&D in the UK by both foreign and domestic companies.

The CBI’s six proposals are:

"* The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) should have a single, clear mission to act as a “champion for IP-intensive companies” across government [This is not as simple as it sounds. Some companies are IP-intensive creators while others are IP-intensive users as licensees etc. The workability of the system depends on creating a legal and commercial culture in which each will thrive]. UK Trade & Investment and the IPO should collaborate to provide a one-stop-shop for any prospective foreign investor in IP-intensive industries [IPKat suggestion: this shop should ask carefully what foreign investors want and need to know, rather than just on what UK businesses want to tell them].
* The IP architecture for patents, copyright, designs and trade marks must be “fit for purpose” for all businesses in the global economy. This will require specific actions such as the introduction of a Community patent within the European Union [Not sure how this will give the UK a business edge over other EU countries, assuming that they have the Community patent too]. More broadly, the government should promote the importance of IP to the UK public and highlight the important role that IP plays in enterprise, creativity and innovation [Agreed. The first thing they can do is to erase Wallace and Gromit from the face of UK innovation. Kids might like to look at W&G exhibits and watch their films, but how many of today's youth want to grow into Wallaces and Gromits? For as long as British inventors are depicted as harmless, eccentric and ineffectual buffoons, it's no wonder that our children want to grow up to be like David and Victoria Beckham]
* All relevant future tax changes should have to pass the test “will it make the UK a more attractive place for IP-intensive businesses to invest in, develop and exploit IP?” [Rarely has the IPKat gazed with greater agreement at any sentence drafted by the CBI. This is so important] The government should also give serious consideration to a “royalty box” approach to encourage companies to register their IP in the UK and further enhance the R&D tax credit scheme to encourage more research and development in the UK.
* The quality and quantity of graduates, particularly with STEM skills, must be increased as a matter of urgency, through opting in high ability students to take all three sciences at GCSE and encouraging a greater uptake of STEM subjects at A-Level [Alas, it may be years before this bears fruit, given the poor take-up, lamentable teaching, unenthusiastic learning and dumbing-down which has characterised much of the performance of English schools over the past two decades. Let's hope for better things]. The government should also invest in laboratories in schools and encourage more work experience for young people to ensure they are enthused about and better prepared for careers in IP-intensive industries.
* The government should take more steps to improve collaboration between universities and business. The IPO should continue to market Lambert model contracts for sharing IP in business/university projects to help encourage research [Now here's something that's already working!], and working with business should be included as a criteria for academic promotion [Tricky one, this, given the different value of "working with business" within the various academic disciplines practised at universities]. Government at all levels should support the development of research clusters by maximising local strengths and avoid creating disincentives for investment ["maximising local strengths" is popular from the business/management side, but not necessarily for the academic whose route to promotion and career advancement so often requires a move to another institution].
* The government must take action to ensure a supply of venture capital funding to IP intensive start-up companies [If the tax position were right and the overall business environment were good, the government wouldn't need to take action. In the meantime, however, every little bit of support will help]. It should also establish a mechanism such as a new Industrial and Commercial Financial Corporation to provide development finance for IP-intensive businesses in the UK for the future health of the economy".
The press release adds that more details will feature in a new CBI report to be launched later this month, “Ripe for success: making the UK the place to develop and exploit IP”. The IPKat eagerly awaits its contents.

13 comments:

Mark Anderson said...

Good to see that the CBI is highlighting the importance of IP to the UK economy. Not so sure about development finance - that sounds like a 1970s approach. More tax breaks sounds like a good idea.

Howard Knopf said...

Meanwhile, back in Davos, Switzerland, the prestigious World Economic Forums in its Global Competitiveness Report for 2009-2010 ranks Canada #18 in IP Protection, ahead of USA, Japan and UK. See p. 360.
http://bit.ly/2TwCS

Jeremy said...

Howard: World who, what? Some might say that, if you have to call something 'prestigious' , it probably isn't...

Anonymous said...

Why should the IPO champion IP intensive companies ?

Justin Watts said...

"working with business should be included as a criteria".
Tut.

Harcourt said...

This seems to be in response - partly - to Prof Paul Wellings' September 2008 Report to the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills - see: http://www.dius.gov.uk/higher_education/shape_and_structure/he_debate/~/media/publications/I/int_property_and_research_benefits_131008.

In the financial year 2004-05, 72 institutions generated a measly £40.3 million from IP licences, options and assignments. It appeared to Prof Wellings that uncertainty and fraught negotations over IP ownership were a significant hurdle to conclusion of agreements. However, the relative proportions of income between Life Sciences, Pharamceuticals, Advanced Engineering, ICT and the Creative Arts and Design is unexamined.

If the level of IP exploitation (see Wellings Recommendation 2) is to be considered in staff promotionand career development, the Creative Arts and Design establishments have a tussle on their hands. Few academics have genome labs in their garage, or particle accelerators - so their status as employees may make IP ownership relatively clear cut. But for painters, potters, film makers, musicians, writers, sculptors et al who teach at such higher education establishments as well as work in their own discipline, it may be a tough call exactly to identify the ownership position of work.

On top of that, Recommendation 2 also suggests that IP policy should not be a disincentive to enterprise for undergraduates and post-graduate students. So far, so good. But Wellings also was of the very reasonable view that such students should be properly informed as to legal rights in relation to invention and enterprise. Now, surely that will be both an expertise problem for many higher education establishments and an opportunity for the legal profession.

Or, of course, such institutions could offer IP as part of the course that are on offer.

Jeremy said...

Justin: Hear, hear! I'm so glad I'm not the only one to get hot under the collar about these things.

Howard Knopf said...

Jeremy, according to Wikipedia, "Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Michael Wolf, Bono, Paulo Coelho and Tony Blair are also regular Davos attendees. Past attendees include Angela Merkel, Dmitry Medvedev, Henry Kissinger, Nelson Mandela, Raymond Barre, and Yasser Arafat."

On this occasion, given that Canada, a former colony of your country, is ranked higher than the UK, I think that the adjective "prestigious" is entirely befitting.

Jeremy said...

Howard, according to Hello! magazine Prince Andrew, JK Rowling, Rowan Atkinson and the Beckhams are also regular Davos attendees. And I've seen some pretty star-studded Bar Mitzvah invitation lists in my time too, but I'd hesitate to deploy the word 'prestigious' ...

One day you'll have to tell me about the methodology of the ranking, and the significance of its result. Till then, I remain your humble and obedient cynic.

Howard Knopf said...

Jeremy - the World Economic Forum ("WEF") methodology is set out at pp. 49 ff of the Report which is here: http://bit.ly/pD30y

It's based on a survey of business executives - not copyleft academics.

Do I detect a note of envy of your former colony's superior rating?

BTW, I've no doubt that Canadian cats would outrank their British counterparts in winter survival skills. But this has not been tracked by the WEF. So, my view on this is purely anecdotal.

I remain your faithful former colonial voice of conscience...

Jeremy said...

Howard, "Business executives"!! I rest my case.

Howard Knopf said...

Jeremy: Are you questioning whether a Swiss-based organization could be anything but scientific and neutral?

Nick White said...

"to help underpin the UK’s reputation as a world leader in developing and exploiting intellectual property"!!!!.

Oh dear! Deluding ourselves again! Developing? No. Plenty of reports show that we don’t lead here. Exploiting? No. See "Prestigous" Global Competitiveness Report for 2009-2010 and many others.

The most important aspect of providing a solution is to fully understand the problem.

The prblem is a lot closer to home. The CBI should do a lot more than diddly-squat to help UK industry to educate itself about the world of IP and all its beauty. Still far too much ignorance in UK PLC. That's the main problem. There is a paucity of imagination in these suggestions from the CBI.

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