Younger, until last week the UK’s IP minister, was
included in the
top 50 list to reflect his work on the passage of the
UK IP Act, including skilfully dealing with concerns over
the provisions criminalising design infringement; his
engagement with the IP community; and his efforts to improve
enforcement. I understand he had been involved in preparing for
UK-China IP Symposium to be held in Beijing in September.
He was also hoping to speak at our Global
IP & Innovation Summit in Shanghai.
However, none of this was enough to save him in Prime
Minister David Cameron’s
ministerial reshuffle last week. He has been replaced by
Baroness Neville-Rolfe (right), who becomes the
seventh IP minister since the post was created by Gordon Brown
in 2007, and the fourth since 2010 (can any readers name all of
Politics is notoriously a rough business, so perhaps we
should not feel any sympathy for Younger, who was in office for
about 18 months, and there’s no reason why IP
should be treated differently from other areas of government.
Neville-Rolfe, once a senior civil servant and also a former
director of Tesco, may prove to be an inspired appointment,
though with an election due in May next year her term could be
short. And there may well be political or electoral reasons
behind the move (though Younger and Neville-Rolfe, like all bar
one of the previous IP ministers, are members of the unelected
House of Lords).
But it still
seems regrettable that Younger should be replaced now, when the
IP Act is being implemented and with it the crucial discussions
about the UK joining the Unitary Patent and UPC, not to mention
controversial changes to copyright exceptions are coming
into effect. I know many IP practitioners had the opportunity
to meet Younger, and he had also built relationships abroad. He
was open and straight-talking when we
interviewed him last month. And, at the recent
IP Enforcement Summit (left), it was notable that
(unlike many politicians at similar events) he had cleared his
diary, stayed throughout and paid careful attention to all the
Now the various groups representing IP issues will have to
spend time getting to know Neville-Rolfe, and work out whether
her appointment represents any fundamental change in policy or
is just a fresh face.
The high turnover in IP ministers, and the fact that IP only
makes up 50% of their brief, does make you question how
seriously the government takes IP. When Brown created the post,
most practitioners were pleased to see a dedicated person
devoted to the topic. But, seven years on, you have to wonder
if the UK would be better off without an IP minister.