A - XMAS 2009

Dear ACID Member ….

So what happened in the world of IP in 2009? The good news is that intellectual property would appear to have gained a much higher profile and recognition by the Government’s policy makers. The bad news is that there is still no apparent cohesion between The Treasury, The Ministry of Justice and the UKIPO (through BIS) in fully protecting and valuing UK brands and the intellectual property they create. Few would deny the exciting transformation from a nation of shopkeepers into a nation of knowledge based entrepreneurs, so Government would do well to support this emerging pot of gold. Singing from the same hymn sheet by tangibly recognising the value to the economy of British brands wouldn’t be a bad start for any new Government!

Running parallel to a knowledge based economy come the pariahs and those who steal ideas and free ride on IP equity. It would be true to say that having waited for 2 years to see an improvement in exemplary damages for IP theft, the Ministry of Justice “disappointed” us by paying scant attention to providing a punitive award of damages to deal with escalating intellectual property infringement. It has also woefully failed to acknowledge, or recognise, the devastating effects this can have on micro and SME entrepreneurs. Whilst everyone would applaud the UKIPO’s policy of IP awareness, protection and registration, no-one can deny that for the majority, taking legal action against IP infringement is out of the reach of the majority. At present the Civil Justice system is inaccessible and time consuming and does not move in line with commercial needs. Business demands a much more robust framework for regulation and enforcement which has thus far been sidelined. We look to the Ministry of Justice to improve the Civil Justice system and to act decisively on recommendations from the long awaited Jackson Review on the civil justice system. Actions speak louder than words.

The Treasury would be wise to put a higher priority on their support of micro enterprises and SME’s (who make up 99% of our UK businesses) by giving them the right tax incentives to attract inward investment and ensure easier access to start-up funds. It is only 50 years ago that being a designer was considered to be one step above train spotting. Design’s evolution and meteoric rise in economic importance (and acknowledgement) has come about by the support of many design champions, not least, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. Presenting the 50th Design Council awards at Buckingham Palace to Andrew Ritchie, The Duke of Edinburgh said he richly deserved this coveted accolade for the quality and usability of the inventive Brompton folding bicycle.

At the recent “Branding in a modern economy conference”, the new Director of Trade Marks and Design, Andrew Layton, admitted that whilst preparing for the conference, he googled “Government Policy on Branding” and found nothing! Not a surprise to the more cynical amongst us but there was hope, when he reinforced that now is the time to match policy with business needs, to emerge through recession into an improved and changed global market competitiveness, through UK brands. Layton finished by saying,

“There is a commitment to press for a review on the issue of look alike packaging in line with Gowers’ recommendation.” At last, through Andrew Layton on behalf of a Government agency, there has been a public commitment – regarding the importance of brands – to listen, understand, consider and act. Hooray!

On a much more practical and grass roots level, prevention and deterrence provide a sound IP strategy so if you are unlucky enough to be in an intellectual property dispute, whether it concerns the ownership of graphics, the terms of a licence/royalty agreement or someone has broken the terms of a confidentiality agreement, the devil is in the detail. It’s the small print which counts in your commercial relationships and allows you to address these hiccups more easily. It makes absolute sense to spare a few moments to see how healthy all your agreements are and where your intellectual property is at risk. After all, everyone is in business to grow and develop business relationships, which will provide a return on investment for the time spent. Successful entrepreneurs need to be reassured that the precious commodity that is intellectual property or “know-how” is protected as much as it can be.

And a personal request! Many of you have supported the two Number 10 petitions to strengthen and improve design laws, if so thank you (and could you get another 5 to sign up!). if not……there is no better time than the present!

And finally, a huge thank you to all the wonderful team at ACID and to our Accredited law firms, DMH Stallard and McDaniel & Co, all of whom have absolutely given their best shot this year!

 Let’s hope that 2010 is the best – safe trading!


Dids CP 022

Dids Macdonald, CEO ACID

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