Is UK business too complacent to IP crime? IBIL Dilution seminar

Business attitudes to IP report

The UK IPO has indeed been busy. They have released research commissioned by its IP Crime Group that shows that 'shows that many businesses are not doing anything to ensure they protect their intellectual property'.

This is a BAD THING it seems. In the words of the press release:

Intellectual property is at the heart of so many businesses. It needs to be understood, protected, and respected [IPKat comment: does this remind anyone of the WIPO World Intellectual Property Day's theme that authors/creators 'deserve our admiration, our protection, and our respect'?] - both that which belongs to the company and the IP of others. It is therefore worrying that the research showed that:

  • 40% of businesses surveyed took no practical action such as trade mark registration or employee training to ensure their and others IP is protected.
  • A third of businesses surveyed were not aware whether goods sold on their premises by external traders were legitimate or not.
  • Out of those who knew that employees were selling DVDs at work, nearly a fifth knew that these were counterfeit and still allowed such illegal activity to take place.
  • Similarly, over a quarter of respondents do not make staff aware that they must not download illegal content at work.

The IPKat has his suspicions about this report, or at least the way that the IPO has represented its findings. For a start, the Kat thinks there's a not so hidden agenda emerging from the questions that have been asked - i.e. you think IP's important, so why do you allow your employees to abuse other people's? More fundamentally, there seems to be an assumption throughout this report and the way that it has been presented that employers should act as policemen, protecting other people's IP against their employees.

He's not sure whether it's so worrying that 40% of businesses don't protect their IP. Many businesses just won't have IP at the core of their business. Your local newsagent isn't going to file many patents. He's not even likely to register a trade mark. However, there is protection in place (such as passing off) which comes into action automatically. When one looks at the statistics of business attitudes to infringement of other people's IP in the workplace, it doesn't look at bad as the IPO has suggested. Take for example the third point above - 20% knowledge of sale of fake DVDs. This has to be put in context. This is 20% of the people who knew that DVDs were being sold in their workplace. This was only 20% of those surveyed. In other words, 20% of 20% of the survey of 500 people (i.e. 20/500 if the IPKat's maths are correct) knew of such sales taking place.

Dilution event at IBIL, University College London, Bloomsbury

UCL's Institute of Brand and Innovation Law is hosting its Brands Seminar on 11 February 2009, 4.00pm for a 4.30pm start.

The title is Trade Mark Infringement without Confusion: Dilution. Speakers are:
  • Professor J Thomas McCarthy on the US perspective
  • Professor Charles Gielen on the Benelux approach
  • Professor David Llewelyn on what the UK makes of it all.

In the chair is Lord Justice Jacob.

To sign up, please click here, but be warned - places are going fast!

Is UK business too complacent to IP crime? IBIL Dilution seminar Is UK business too complacent to IP crime? IBIL Dilution seminar Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. I also found the implication that businesses should act as police to protect other businesses' IP rather unattractive. If I run a business I have no reason to spend money protecting other people's IP (unless I can be fixed with liability) any more than I would to protect other forms of property and I should not be criticised for that.

    And, most businesses are small business who (as you say) may have no IP it is cost effective to protect. Contract IT workers (for instance) rarely have much IP of their own that they could or should protect. Most family run restaurants are unlikely to want to trade mark what they do and so passing off etc is quite adequate for their needs.

  2. 1. The UKIPO thinks that part of its role is to be a cheerleader for IP and to promote awareness of IP among SMEs. It needs to find a new role, as domestic UK IP filings reduce. Gowers has given it some related roles, eg the B2B licensing agreements project.
    2. Cheerleading is basically a PR role. Standard way of getting some publicity for a cause is to commission a survey, which you hope will then be used in the press as a hook for an article.

    Mr Cynic

  3. I disagree with Francis Davey. It is frequently wise for small businesses, particularly in the service industries, to protect their trading name by registering it as a trade mark. The registration can become a valuble asset.

  4. In a global market the only things that people would want from this country is innovative products - which must be protected by intellectual property. The businesses which are involved with innovation in anyway must be made aware of the importance of protection and to ensure their own house is in order.

    We can no longer rely on the banks as wealth creators as the current economic crisis shows.


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