General Election 2017: What Do The Parties Say About IP? (IP – Hit or Miss?)

With just under a week of frantic campaigning remaining, are you on the fence about the General Election on Thursday 8 June? Well, fear not as Tidman Legal is here to give you a run down on the most important policy area of them all. Yes, it’s time to look at what the parties have got to say about Intellectual Property.

Which manifestos mention Intellectual Property?

Rather than subjecting ourselves to having to read the manifestos of the various parties (we’re not masochists you know), Tidman Legal has located PDF copies of the manifestos for the Conservatives, Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party and has performed a word search for any of the following terms: patent, trade mark (or trademark), design (IP related design references only), copyright and intellectual property (or IP).

So, here we go….

CONSERVATIVES (Manifesto – PDF)

According to the Conservative manifesto, a Digital Charter will be developed to make Britain the best place to start and run a digital business. Support for the digital, technology and creative industries is also highlighted and the Conservatives will “ensure that there is a robust system for protection of intellectual property when the UK has left the EU, with strong protections against infringement.

Although there is much talk about innovation within their “modern industrial strategy” and ways to help SMEs prosper, the Conservatives only make one mention of IP. Accordingly, Tidman Legal awards a marginal IP Hit to the Conservatives.

LABOUR (Manifesto – PDF)

IP Miss (by a mile). No hits at all on the above terms.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS (Manifesto – PDF)

The Liberal Democrats fall somewhere between Labour and the Conservatives (nothing new there then) and have two references in their manifesto to IP based issues. The Lib Dems will “support the growth in the creative industries, including video gaming, by continuing to support the Creative Industries Council and tailored industry-specific tax support, promoting creative skills, supporting modern and flexible patent, copyright and licensing rules, and addressing the barriers to finance faced by small creative businesses.”  They will also “maintain current standards of intellectual property (IP) protection with continuing co-operation on enforcement of IP generated in the UK and working within the EU to ensure the continuation of territorial licensing of rights.”

Marginal IP Hit

SNP (Manifesto – PDF)

IP Miss (by a mile). No hits at all on the above terms.

UKIP (Manifesto – PDF)

IP Miss (by a mile). No hits at all on the above terms.

PLAID CYMRU (Manifesto – PDF)

IP Miss (by a mile). No hits at all on the above terms.

GREEN PARTY (Manifesto – PDF)

IP Miss (by a mile). No hits at all on the above terms. However, a lit bit of extra digging reveals a Green Party economy policy document. Motherlode!

This policy document contains a lot on intellectual property and states that the Green Party’s “general presumption is to encourage the Green value of greater sharing and to make it more difficult to obtain patents and similar forms of protection than at present“. Hmm, “more difficult” that’s not a great start….

The policy document then says that the Greens will make it “impossible to patent broad software and cultural ideas“. No mere tightening of the patent system here. No, it will be “impossible” to patent broad ideas.

The document continues and states “we would generally shorten patent terms and relate them to the timescale of innovation in the industry concerned.” International funding (perhaps a Tobin tax) would enable certain patents of global, social and environmental usefulness to be bought out from their owners with the patent then becoming freely available. In the event that the Green Party cannot push through such a “minor” tweak to the IP landscape then they will enable the government (don’t they mean they would enable themselves?) to nationalise a patent if it was in the public interest, the creators of the patent being compensated (Inventor or applicant? I’m pretty certain they’re not suggesting that the drafting patent attorney will be compensated!).

As far as copyright is concerned, the Green Party will abolish Crown copyright, shorten copyright terms to 14 years maximum (no indication if this is from creation or life + 14 years), legalise non-commercial peer-to-peer copying (Game of Thrones?) and liberalise fair use policies.

The Green Party would also “restrict the value of claims for intellectual property violations to a proportion of the monetary gain made by the commercial exploitation by the user, and not allow damages.

Hmm, I may still have to keep this as an IP Miss.

So, there you have it. Tidman Legal’s brief and in no way biased or indeed comprehensive General Election 2017 rundown.

Happy voting.

If you have any queries about the potential impact of the General Election or Brexit on your organisation, or if you would like to discuss your position, please contact us.

Tidman Legal is a firm of specialist intellectual property lawyers based in Edinburgh, Scotland.