Toolkit or Foolkit?

The IPKat learned yesterday that the Intellectual Property Office has just launched a Supply Chain Toolkit -- "a new best practice toolkit which gives businesses practical advice on how they can better protect themselves from the dangers of fake goods entering business supply chains". According to the press release,
"Developments in technology and communications have led to increases in intellectual property (IP) crime (counterfeiting and piracy) over the past decade, around $200billion per year, creating one of the biggest problems for businesses of all kinds around the world.

The Supply Chain Toolkit has been produced by the Intellectual Property Office’s IP Crime Group. It includes a step by step approach on what action should be taken if counterfeits are found within the supply chain and guidance on how to strengthen and protect IP assets....
Many businesses rely on goods received through supply chains, often from many different suppliers, and are therefore at risk from counterfeiting and piracy unless effective systems and agreements are put in place to tackle this problem ...".
The Toolkit itself is tremendously handsomely produced. It's ostensibly 34 pages long but, by the time you eliminate the front cover, the white spaces, the green spaces, the graphics and so on, and take into account the generously large type, there's not a great deal of text to read.  Some of the content is frankly puzzling and verging on the bizarre. The glossary, for example, contains such helpful terms as AstraZeneca, European CommunityTrade Related Aspects Of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs)United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) -- concepts that do not suggest themselves as immediate choices for the middleman or small-time retailer who may wish to be more careful when it comes to selling fakes. The addressee will however be comforted to discover that he now has the contact details of the International Association for the Protection of Industrial Property (AIPPI) and the Copyright Society of China, whose phones will soon be ringing red hot with inquiries from market stall-holders and white van drivers from all over middle England. 

The IPKat hates to be negative, but he can't help feeling that this is a good idea that has somehow got lost in execution.  He also wonders how many of the Toolkit's prospective readers were consulted in its production, to find out whether it was the sort of thing they might either want or use.  Finally, he'd love to know how the efficacy of the Toolkit is to be monitored, and whether the results of any monitoring exercise will be made public.

In short, the IPKat wonders, is it a Toolkit to help small retailers, a manifesto for the IP Crime Group, a cosmetic exercise to show that some arty crafty civil servants have produced a deliverable, or what?  Merpel has her doubts too: it's great to give small businesses the contact details of, for example, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, but in her experience many of the businesses that most need an IP Toolkit are actually quite anxious not to draw the attention of that body to any aspects of their trade, for reasons which she need not elucidate here.  

Both Kats (and Tufty, once he has finished being admired and/or vilified by visitors to this weblog) hope that readers will take the trouble to look carefully at the Toolkit and make as many constructive suggestions as they can for the revised edition.  Please send your suggestions here and say the IPKat sent you. You can download the Toolkit here and read it yourself. 
Toolkit or Foolkit? Toolkit or Foolkit? Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. Why doesn't it list ACID among the contacts? And there doesn't seem to be any advice on contacting trading standards offices. Or advice on what to do when the guy that used to supply you with infringing goods comes along and kicks your shop window in after you've shopped him.

  2. What is it about these UKIPO publications (the B2B Licensing brochure is an other example - see that doesn't feel quite right? They are produced with good intent, careful preparation, etc.

    There seems to be a collision of different worlds:

    1. The political world where the view seems to be that "something should be done" about making IP more central to the lives of SMEs and others in the UK economy.

    2. The Civil Service world of the UKIPO, earnestly trying to meet the objectives of their political masters, but having very little understanding of the mind-set of small businessmen. They engage with "industry representatives", draft documents, and hire people who turn them into polished brochures.

    3. SMEs, some of whom want simple, one-line answers to complex IP questions; others are more receptive to more detail and nuance.

    4. IP professionals, who understand the complexity of IP issues, and sometimes (understandably) prefer accuracy at the expense of pithy clarity or over-simplification.

    I also feel that these brochures suffer from top-down push to the consumer, rather than being market-led by what consumers (in this case SMEs) want and are willing to pay for. As a result, one is to some extent guessing as to who the reader is, what level of detail they want and can digest, etc.

    The UKIPO does well to produce competent end-products with all these difficulties. But one is left with a nagging concern as to whether what they have been asked to do is a useful exercise.

  3. Please, let's not teach everyone about TRIPS, Berne and UCC.

    It may lower the threshold for them to learn of, for instance, Directive 2002/58/EC and UDHR ;)

  4. Note the poor definition of "grey market" as "the trade of something legal through unofficial,unauthorised, unintended distribution channels" and the quotation of Symantec's loose use of the word "illegal" in connection with "grey".

  5. I usually deprecate this blog's carping criticism of the hard work of others. This time though i think the criticism is too mild. If this is the best the govnrrment can do, it's a total embarrassment.


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