Reforming intellectual property law – balancing the right to enforce with the need for innovation

We have published a Bill that would implement the reforms we recommended in 2014 to patent, trade mark and designs, at the request of the Government.

The Bill is published with an explanatory report Patents, Trade Marks and Designs: Unjustified Threats.The report also makes two new recommendations that would apply the reformed law to the unitary patent. This is a new right that will make it easier to protect an invention across the EU.

If enacted, the Bill would bring the law for trade marks and designs into line with that for patents. It would also provide a much clearer framework within which businesses and their professional advisers can operate to resolve disputes. The main provisions:

  • protect retailers, suppliers and customers against threats,
  • provide more certainty over what approaches can be made legitimately to potential infringers,
  • bring more clarity over when businesses can safely threaten competitors who do infringe their IP rights, and
  • protect professional advisers from being sued for making threats when they act for their clients.

Stephen Lewis, Law Commissioner for commercial and common law, said:

“Patents, trade marks and design rights are valuable IP rights and vital to economic growth. They ensure that research and innovation is encouraged and rewarded. And, for some small businesses, they can represent their most significant assets.

“The law provides effective ways to enforce IP rights but these can be misused to drive competitors from the market. If implemented, our reforms will make sure that businesses continue to be protected against competitors who misuse threats while making it easier for innovative businesses, their competitors and their professional advisers to negotiate a settlement and avoid litigation.”