INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS AND CONSUMER RIGHTS

LORD TRIESMAN

LORD TRIESMAN

Following successful campaigning by ACID (Anti Copying In Design) and other key stakeholders pressing for the creation of the role of Intellectual Property Minister, Lord Triesman now appointed to the role, set out his store one year on from the Gowers IP recommendations. At an event organised by the Social Market Foundation and sponsored by the Alliance Against IP Theft. Lord Triesman confirmed that whilst the recommendations need to remain flexible to allow for current and future developments, the Gowers Recommendations will be constantly reviewed and adjusted to ensure that the balance of IP rights holders and users is maintained.

With the ever growing tensions and frustrations between rights-holders and consumers, he confirmed that Government cannot set hard and fast rules but will continue dialogue with businesses to seek solutions, urging all stakeholders to take part, looking at the diverse range of business models available to encourage consumer respect for intellectual property. In a bed rock reality check, UK IP stakeholders need not look to Government for immediate legislative reform simply because of the timescales involved however, he assured those present that, “We wouldn’t lose momentum in the UK and will would continue to seek national and international agreements on IP issues. Communication is key, raising awareness of IP where it fits in, how it works with consistent messages which are targeted at all appropriate platforms”.

Highlighting illegal activity and the consumer, Lord Triesman acknowledged (unsurprisingly!) that IP crime is not at the top of most people’s priorities, however the damage inflicted on organisations has a significant impact and Government cannot overlook demonstrable examples of links to organised crime which will become a priority issue for all enforcement agencies. However, solutions will be governed by consumer use and each type of IP theft must “not alienate consumer” he went on to say that “Changing the culture is difficult and requires consumer engagement”.

In summary, Lord Triesman confirmed his “absolute commitment and willingness to work with all stakeholders and, by facing the challenges”, he continued, “Together we can make a difference in the UK”. He then outlined the input he would like to encourage from stakeholders:


1) Developing a way of transferring the cultural messages about IP respect and the consequences of IP abuse – achieving understanding of the creative value of the mind

2) Via consultation – comprehensive responses that map the IP terrain but which are not anti competitive

3) Thinking more creatively about what is in the creative commons from the standpoint that more economic activity is generated by knowledge sharing whilst, at the same time maintaining and protecting business survival by ensuring the balance is right.

Wishing him good luck on his appointment to the position of Minister of Intellectual Property a canny Gordon Brown said, “Take a look at the value that IP has in the UK, it’s a leading edge economy double it!”

ACID COMMENT

The Gowers Report, published in 2006, made 54 recommendations having attracted detailed and comprehensive submissions from over 600 stakeholders representative of the UK economy. Lord Triesman might well benefit from revisiting some of the tried and tested business models working effectively within the UK and not highlighted by Gowers in his recommendations, including ACID.

ACID will continue to lobby the Government, through Lord Triesman and garner support for the provision of exemplary damages which, under the existing legal structure are woefully inadequate and serve no purpose in dissuading those who seek criminal gain from what is still considered a “soft crime” by continuing to make vast profits from the immoral, anti-commercial and criminal activities which they continue to pursue. The organisation will continue to press for Aggravated Damages – The mental distress and moral outrage of IP theft must be seen to be quantified and demonstrated by the award of aggravated damages – often it takes a tremendous amount of conviction, courage and huge financial cost to take action causing ensuing mental distress. Restitutionary damages which fiscally balance the difference between the sale of a cheap copy and the amount lost by the originator/creator who has had to bear all the design, development or promotional costs. Exemplary Damages Punishing the wrong doer in a fair and just society rarely happens in IP infringement. IP crime is still not considered as “theft” nor is it promoted as “theft” clearly because of economic concerns and a lack of education and awareness by the consumer that they are doing anything wrong when they buy counterfeit, pirated or copied goods.

ACID would also urge Lord Triesman to really put his weight behind mediation as a real alternative to litigation and ensure that UK businesses look into their own back yard with declared corporate responsibility on IP issues and a public commitment to seek mediation sooner rather than later in the legal equation as recommended in Crown Prosecution Rules and encouraged by many UK judges.

Finally, IP having at last being given the importance of a ministerial status, ACID would urge Lord Triesman to ‘influence the influencers’ within Government.  Through his political network he has the opportunity to put the protection and encouragement of the nation’s intellectual property much higher up the political ladder.

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