Graph showing how UK firms invest mainly in IP

Review of Intellectual Property and Growth: Call for Evidence

The Government has asked Professor Ian Hargreaves to lead a short review of the Intellectual Property (IP) framework (law and practice) to consider how it might be changed in the interest of promoting innovation and economic growth. The Review will take into account the conclusions and evidence provided to previous reviews in this area, but we invite fresh evidence on the extent to which the current IP system successfully promotes innovation and growth and how it could do so more effectively.

Intellectual Property and Growth

The Government recently set out its vision to create a more dynamic economy External Link. The IP framework has a key role to play in this. IP rights can help protect firms' income by preventing others from copying their products and so enable them to attract investment. Furthermore, the assurance of income from IP rights helps to incentivise those whose creativity drives growth.

The Government is concerned that the current IP framework may, in certain respects, be obstructing growth by failing to strike the right balance between delivering protection and enabling competitive innovation. An inflexible framework may inadvertently obstruct the use of technologies which were not imagined when regulations were developed and it may discourage established businesses from adapting to change, allowing them to stifle competition and raise the cost of market entry.

This Review's Contribution

There have been several reviews of the IP system in recent years. The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property External Link took an overview of the whole system, and considered it broadly fit-for-purpose, before making 54 specific recommendations for change. The Creative Britain External Link (2008) and the Digital Britain External Link report (2009) considered the question of how copyright enforcement could face the challenges created by the Internet. Finally, the previous Government's copyright strategy PDF document(378Kb) (2009) advanced 32 conclusions and actions designed to make the copyright system better attuned to the digital age. This Review, which has also been asked to focus upon the digital economy, will build upon the evidence and thinking provided by this earlier work as a basis for addressing the question of how the IP framework can best support growth in the economy. It will also establish the reasons why previous proposals for change to the IP system, relevant to economic growth, have failed to make progress.

The contribution this Review hopes to make will be threefold:

  • To outline the key elements of an IP system, nationally and internationally, that would best promote UK economic growth, as a touchstone for future policy decisions.
  • To set out some specific actions that should be taken as "first steps" towards this goal.
  • To identify any additional areas where there appears to be real potential for improvement, but where further evidence is needed to make firm judgements.

The Review will consider all IP rights, particularly in cross-cutting issues such as enforcement and the relationship with competition law, but will focus on patents and copyright. This is not to underestimate the significance of other IP rights: rather, it is an attempt to concentrate the Review on areas where it can provide the most insight and best policy advice, in the time available.

Terms of Reference

The Review will develop evidence-based proposals on how the UK's IP framework can further promote entrepreneurialism, economic growth and social and commercial innovation.  We would like to hear about your experience of the current IP framework and your assessment of how well it promotes these objectives. The Review will draw upon on US and European as well as UK experience, focusing in particular on:

  • Identification of barriers to growth in the IP system, and how to overcome them;
  • How the IP framework could better enable new business models appropriate to the digital age.

Among the subjects to which the Review is expected to bring this perspective are:

  • IP and barriers to new internet-based business models, including information access, costs of obtaining permissions from existing rights-holders, and investigating what are the benefits of "fair use" exceptions to copyright and how these might be achieved in the UK;
  • The cost and complexity of enforcing IP rights within the UK and internationally;
  • The interaction of the IP and Competition frameworks;
  • The cost and complexity to SMEs of accessing IP services to help them to protect and exploit IP.

The Review will make recommendations on:

  • How the IP system nationally and internationally can best work to promote innovation and growth with a view to setting the direction of the IP policy agenda for the next five to ten years;
  • What short and medium term measures can be taken now within the international framework to give the UK a competitive advantage.

The Review will report to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in April 2011.

Limitations of Review Scope

The Government is currently consulting on the taxation of innovation and IP External Link. The consultation includes proposals to introduce a Patent Box; and a review of the support R&D tax credits provide for innovation, including the proposals of the Dyson Review. These questions are therefore outside the scope of this review.

Nature of Responses Sought

In order to achieve its aims, the Review seeks economic data and related evidence which are methodologically sound, robust and clearly sourced. Responses relying on empirical data should clearly identify the methodology used and any critical assumptions relied upon, identify the source(s) of the data, and provide a copy of or a citation to each such source. At the same time, the Review welcomes evidence in the form of case-studies and individual experiences which illustrate one or more of the issues under consideration.

The set of questions below sets out the issues around which the Review seeks evidence. They should not be thought of as a "questionnaire" to work through, or as an exhaustive list, but as a prompt to setting out your own insights.

We welcome evidence which relates both to how the system is currently operating, and to possible alternatives (which might be drawn, for example, from experience in other countries).

In responding, please indicate where you consider that advantages and disadvantages lie, for instance with

  • the underlying legal framework
  • the way it is applied and enforced
  • business practices and information provision which have grown up around the legal framework
  • where the framework creates benefits or costs for creators, investors, intermediaries, business users and consumers.

In commenting on any actual or potential alternatives to the current framework, please consider practicality, time and cost.

Reviewed 17 December 2010