IP and the Digital Economy Bill, including web marking for designs

October 2016

The Digital Economy Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech on 18 May 2016 and introduced in the House of Commons on 5 July 2016.   The particular aims in the Digital Economy Bill for IP are set out below.

The UK’s digital economy is growing fast and digital technology is transforming every sector and all aspects of our lives; if the UK is to remain ahead and be a world leader in the digital economy we need to continue to raise our ambition and the Digital Economy Bill includes a range of measures in support of this, which includes elements on protecting intellectual property. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for BIS and Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: "The UK is rightly known worldwide as home to some of the world’s most innovative and creative businesses, many for whom IP is key to their success. These measures strengthen the IP framework, ensuring the UK remains a great place to innovate and do business.”

The particular aims in the Digital Economy Bill for IP are to:

• strengthen the UK copyright framework and bring criminal penalties for online and physical copyright infringement into line

• enable designers to mark their products for less cost and protect their rights

• repeal out-dated copyright provisions in relation to cable television

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the proposal to enable designers to optionally mark their products with a weblink, which would make it cheaper and easier for them to give notice of their rights. Intellectual Property rights may change over the lifetime of a product and this will allow rights holders to keep information up to date and ensure that infringers cannot claim that they did not know the design was protected.  The proposal also means that business would also be able to use a single web link for patents and designs, if they wish.  The website must be freely accessible to the public and clearly associate the registered rights with the product.

 Today (25 October 2016) MPs are considering the Bill in a Public Bill Committee.  The Public Bill Committee is scheduled to conclude by Tuesday 1 November 2016, but could finish earlier.  Once the both the Houses of Commons and Lords agree on the final version of the Bill, it can receive Royal Assent and become an Act of Parliament (the proposals of the Bill now become law).