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The people from the IPO want to help you



James Nurton


Ronald Reagan famously quipped that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help”. But a call from the UK IPO may not be quite so scary

At the launch of its 2014-15 research priorities last week, the IPO’s directors emphasised what they are doing, in the words of Chief Executive John Alty, to "help promote innovation in the UK".

This is partly of course about efficiently handling applications and renewals, and discussing matters of policy with other countries. But increasingly it is also about talking to businesses and consumers about IP creation and use.

Indeed, two of the ministerial targets set for the IPO in 2014-15 are:

  • Reach an audience of 5 million people with messages to build respect for IP by end of March 2015
  • Reach an audience of 10,000 businesses through the IP for Business online tool by end of March 2015

In the coming year, the Office is also working to deliver an Enforcement Summit, to promote web tools for students and to develop its IP Equip advice tool. Among other initiatives it has recruited the cartoon characters Wallace and Gromit (right) to educate children, launched the IP Connect newsletter and supported the Karaoke Shower (apparently, there is a video of Alty performing – luckily I couldn’t find it online).

For Rosa Wilkinson (below), the Office’s enthusiastic innovation director, this is not enough, though. Speaking last week, she said there is "lots more to do to wake businesses up to manage their IP"; stressed that there was room to "improve understanding for businesses and the financial services community" and added for good measure: "Too many accountants know very little about IP."

Rosa WilkinsonDespite Reagan’s gag (which you can see on YouTube), I expect most IP practitioners will welcome these kinds of government initiatives (though the UK IPO is strictly speaking an "Executive Agency" rather than the government itself). I know that more and more national offices all over the world are looking at how they can promote IP education and training, and play a role in enforcement and deterrence.

On the other hand, there may be owners of patents, trade marks and other rights who don’t appreciate government intervention, and object to money (which ultimately comes from users’ fees) being spent in this way.

Which camp are you in? Please send us your comments.

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