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UK IP enforcement 2020 – strengthening the legal framework

IPO will comprehensively review all existing methods of legal recourse for IP infringement to ensure they are effective, consistent and proportionate across all IP rights. IPO also wants to ensure that UK business and rights holders continue to have the necessary legal means to protect their IP.

Increasing understanding of how the court system works and what elements make for a successful outcome will be an important part of any decision to sue, especially for small businesses and lone creators. IPO will continue its work to support businesses of any size to navigate and utilise the civil court system by improving the guidance that is currently available, including guidance on the minimum levels of evidence required for website blocking orders, and by ensuring that court judgments and cases are published on a regular and consistent basis. IPO will continue to work with private and public sector partners to monitor the effectiveness of injunctions, and champion their use where necessary. IPO will engage with the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive, to assess whether there is sufficient demand to introduce an IPEC-style system in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

IPO recognises, however, that legal action costs, and that this can be especially prohibitive for small businesses and lone creators. IPO will therefore continue to monitor and champion the use of pre-litigation services to ensure that businesses and individuals are able to enforce their IP rights in a way that is cost effective. To achieve this IPO will raise awareness of the IPO Mediation Service and IP insurance products made available by businesses. IPO will also encourage and facilitate dispute resolution through the use of the IPO Opinions Services and mediation facilities.

In addition to this support, IPO will also consider the need for, and scope of, any potential legislation required to take action against a range of intermediaries to address the most persistent and criminal elements involved in counterfeiting and infringement. This could include:

  • Looking at the case for introducing specific legislation to respond to the emergence of fulfilment houses (companies that specialise in warehousing and packing for others), which are increasingly being used to facilitate the sale of counterfeit, unsafe, smuggled and mis-described goods in the UK.
  • Considering what legislation would be effective in addressing the growing problem of illegal streaming via set top boxes.
  • Investigating the scope for legislation to take action against search engines, ISPs and platforms that facilitate or otherwise support those involved in infringement and counterfeiting.

Many UK stakeholders believe that, for the most part, the UK has an effective system for addressing infringement. However, stakeholders have identified a lack of consistency in approach across Europe and difficulties in accessing justice in some jurisdictions. As the European Commission examines whether or not the Enforcement Directive should be amended to address changes in technology, this presents an ideal opportunity to call for more effective enforcement across Europe. In doing so, IPO will work to ensure that EU level changes do not restrict UK courts use of injunctive relief against a range of intermediaries, including ISPs, search engines and platforms. IPO will also use this opportunity to push the IPEC model as possible best practice for other member states.