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UK Intellectual Property Legal Framework. The Official Evaluation

A group of prominent British experts representing Cambridge University, Manchester University, and its UMIP branch in particular, focused on intellectual property management (widely known for its commercialisation projects) led by Professor Ian Hargreaves on behalf of Prime Minister David Cameron, conducted the study of the current state of affairs around the UK law on intellectual property. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of this study, expressing concern that the shortcomings of the legal system may hinder innovation and economic development. In May 2011, a detailed report was prepared – ‘Digital Perspectives: An independent review of intellectual property and development’. Additional materials that were collected during the investigation can be found there.

The main question posed by the scientists was the estimate of the legal framework. Indeed, the current British legislation negatively impacts economic growth and inhibits innovation. The conclusion contained a detailed overview of the main problems in the various areas of intellectual property and the 10 recommendations to address them. Especially a lot of attention was paid to the influence of the Internet and digital technology to turn creative results. The experts specifically debunk some myths entrenched in society: on the impact of piracy, ways of dealing with them and so on.

This report has been recognised as one of the most respected in their field. Since it is often referred to by experts and law enforcers, not only in Britain but also in many other EU countries. It seems that a brief review of its basic position is very useful for many people.


The authors describe in detail the increasing role of intellectual property in today’s economy, noting that in 2008 the UK investment in intangible assets exceeded investments in tangible assets (£137 billion and £104 billion, respectively).

Digital technologies, the most important and constantly changing filed today, was closely linked with economic growth, development of existing and new markets. Intellectual property rights is something that lies in its heart. The introduction of new technologies, such as the large-scale cloud programming or ‘Internet of things’, depends on the condition and capacity of the system of intellectual property rights. Hence the unprecedented impact of intellectual property rights not only on the current economic situation, but also its future transformation.

The authors note that many models of legal regulation of the use of creative results collected very little objective data. The state policy concerning the development of intellectual property rights should be based on a solid base of proven and reliable facts.

Perhaps these are the shortcomings of legal regimes of some of creative objects causing a situation where the business prefers to protect innovation through confidentiality agreements and the regime of a trade secret, deprives society of access to the valuable technological information, not patents.

A striking example of crudity of legal regulation adopted by the authors referred to in the EU Directive ‘On the harmonisation and improvement of the legal protection of databases’. It was adopted to encourage investment in the development of databases, which significantly lagged behind the volume of investments in a number of countries, particularly the US (where, incidentally, the rights on the database were not even secured). Subsequent studies have shown that after the adoption of the Directive in the EU the number of created databases has considerably decreased, whereas in the US they still are developing to a greater extent.