“More efficient”. “Clearer”. “More accessible”. These are the aims of the new Intellectual Property Act 2014 (the “Act”), due to come into force in October 2014. Having received royal assent on 14 May 2014, the Act comes as the response to the Hargreaves Review of IP and Growth in 2011, which set out recommendations for the modernisation of the Intellectual Property (“IP”) system in the UK.
Many of the provisions, which focus predominantly on patents and designs, will align IP law in England and Wales with European (“EU”) law and provide for ever increasing harmonisation in the future.
Some of the key provisions of the Act are set out below.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills anticipates that the Act will “help businesses to better understand what is protected under the law, reduce the need for costly litigation and provide greater certainty for investors in designs and technologies”. Certainly the removal of unnecessary ‘red tape’ and the introduction of more efficient online services will be welcomed by businesses across the UK, who invest heavily in IP protection and lament the uncertainties fostered by the current system.
Given the extensive changes to come into force from October 2014, it is important that businesses fully acquaint themselves with the provisions of the Act and understand how these will affect them. Whilst the Act introduces several new protections, it also establishes numerous restrictions (including criminal sanctions) which businesses must consider in order to avoiding falling foul of the changing legal landscape.
Now is an ideal time for businesses to undergo an IP ‘health check’, prior to the scheduled October changes. This will help to ensure that their intellectual property portfolio is best protected and their key personnel are up to date with the new legislation. By being fully informed, businesses can then make the most appropriate choices about how to deal with their IP rights and respond proactively in the event their own rights are infringed or they are accused of infringement themselves. Although the IP system can be complex, with the right advice, businesses can simply and effectively use the legislative framework to their legal and commercial advantage.