Yesterday’s publication of the UK’S Intellectual Property Hargreaves Review finally recognised designs’ significant contribution to the UK’s GDP. Professor Ian Hargreaves has made it known that he cannot understand why design has been neglected as a big chunk of the UK’s economic success. He will be urging Ministers to ensure that the UKIPO is held accountable to create constructive IP policy to help the UK’s designers, many of whom are SME’s. This will be music to the ears of small firms and, more specifically, to UK’s designers who often find themselves out on a limb. At a time when design companies need all the help they can get in fighting IP theft, we hope that the Government will act positively on these recommendations. Despite 6 IP reviews over 4 years, very little has been done to help small firms within the creative industries. It is now time to address the costs and complexity of enforcing intellectual property rights within the UK by the setting up of a fast track small claims IP court. SME’s will also be helped by improving access to specialised services to protect, exploit and commercialise their IP. All of these issues were raised in ACID’s submission to the review.

Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID representing over 1000 UK designers and manufacturers said, “Creative design pioneers are among the champions of the UK economy and they deserve to be protected and supported. There is a need for IP policy now that walks the walk, not talks the talk, with a real cost and time- effective enforcement framework. Dissuasive damages are needed to act as a real deterrent.  This report goes some way in acknowledging the issues faced by designers but I seriously question the necessity for further research into assessing the relationship between design rights and innovation. The consultation culture has to stop – the real work must begin with tangible implementation and a change of deliberate policy by those who take the fast track to market through design theft”.

Announcing the publishing of the Hargreaves Review at the Alliance Against IP Theft Conference, Business Secretary Rt. Hon. Dr. Vince Cable MP said, “This is not the end of our thinking about IP and growth. It is the beginning of turning thinking into doing.”

The Hargreaves Review highlights research which states that SME’s felt there were too many services available and it was difficult to choose the right one. Some said they could not tell which services were reliable or trustworthy but the majority indicated that they would be interested in having access to an intermediary who could provide basic advice on IP in place of a legal advisor – something that ACID has been doing for the past 15 years effectively! With a UKIPO budget of 69.4 million in 2010, Hargreaves said, “The IPO undoubtedly has the potential to improve the availability of IP services to SME’s though it will need to consider the balance of benefits between direct provision from its own staff and working with a well organised network of intermediaries. To accomplish either of these things effectively and on a sustained basis will require greater clarity in the IPO’s mandate and an evolution in its culture.”

The report did not recognise ACID’s arguable case for Design right to be on a par with other property rights – such as copyright and unregistered trademarks. Copying should be considered a crime, as copyright infringement is, they are the same ‘species of rights’ but the sanctions are different. This leads to widespread poor practice. Ideas are stolen from pitches, or from trade fairs, the point of entry to the market for most businesses. Unlike their EU counterparts, exhibition organizers in the UK don’t take a tough stance on IP infringement

The full report is available on the IPO website

The top ten recommendations can be viewed here