I may be used to change, but the last fortnight has been
One moment I was preparing to try to support business as a
Lords backbencher, with questions on the Infrastructure Bill.
The next I found myself giving up my hard won non-executive
business portfolio (ITV, Metro the huge German retailer and
others) to become Minister for Intellectual Property. What a
surprising turn of events. As someone for whom innovation and
creativity have always been a personal driver, this is a
fantastic opportunity and one that I could not turn down.
Innovation was behind our industrial revolution – I
had an ancestor who was in Stephenson’s team on
the Rocket – and creativity has given us the
world’s greatest heritage in literature and the
applied arts. I speak as a collector of pottery from
Staffordshire, the patent and design hotspot of its time.
Khartoum, Staffordshire pottery
I have been pleased to discover that the
Government’s aim is to make the UK the best place
to start and invest in innovative companies. Our ambition is to
increase the value generated by all sectors with a stake in the
UK’s intellectual property regime. As well as
investing in the skills and infrastructure necessary for a 21st
century economy, we have taken action to review and update the
UK’s IP framework, so it supports, rather than
hinders, economic growth.
I want us to build upon Britain’s history of
ingenuity and to attempt to make conditions easier for
innovators. I want our existing innovators protected with the
right framework of laws on copyright, design, patents and trade
marks. I want our future innovators encouraged. I want an idea
protected, but I want its light to inspire others.
Having grown up in a small farm business and worked in
competitive environments, I value enterprise, determination and
hard work. My four sons sometimes get rather bored with this
Working for over 15 years at Tesco and before that in the
Policy Unit at No 10 and in the civil service, I have become
used to dealing with major problems and large-scale concerns.
Yet in reading my briefing papers I have been bowled over by
the size of the sector for which I am the Ministerial
Global trade in intellectual property is huge. It is worth
some £600 billion a year and it is growing. I want
Britain to secure an even greater share of that market. To do
so our innovators need to be confident that their rights will
be respected and enforced wherever they operate. Our
innovations help to create a high value economy with huge
rewards to creative talent and creative business, but that is
only possible if we continue to be highly inventive.
One of my priorities will be developing
Britain’s relationships with key international
partners. My first overseas visit will be to China,
which I know quite well, delivering on an agreement made by the
Prime Minister with Premier Li when he led a large business
delegation there last December. I will be co-hosting a
symposium with the Chinese authorities. Now that the Chinese
are creating record numbers of patents and trade marks of their
own, there is a real opportunity for us to encourage Chinese
policy makers as they develop their maturing IP framework.
Europe will be incredibly important too. I will be keeping a
close eye on Brussels, on the unitary patent and the Unified
Patent Court to secure the best outcome for UK businesses and
UK professionals. I have walked the corridors of Brussels for
40 years, but I will have a new spring in my step.
As well as scale, I have been delighted by the breadth of
the intellectual property brief. I want people to understand
that though it is a technical subject it is important for many
of our industries.
By protecting rights we spur on our aerospace industry,
technological innovations in simple household appliances and
complex computing, fashion, pop music and the other creative
arts and, also close to my heart, medical advances. We
don’t only protect new drugs. At the British
Business House during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow we
brought together some of the best brains in digital healthcare
to discuss breakthroughs in mobile technology which are
radically improving care and reducing error.
|Speaking at the
Digital Health Seminar , British Business House,
Another vital aspect of our work is better enforcement of
rights. My predecessor led the first ever international IP
Enforcement Summit here in London in June and I will carry the
Our Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit established only
9 months ago with IPO funds has already investigated £30m
worth of IP crime.
During the fiery debate on copyright in the House of Lords
on 30 July, everyone spoke warmly of the Copyright Hub, a new
development by the creative industries and supported by seed
funding from the Government, to make sure all users –
consumers or businesses – can easily secure legal
access to copyright work thus reducing the temptation of
the IPO’s new online patent renewal
I should end by thanking the Intellectual Property Office at
Newport for making me welcome so early in my tenure. Coming
from business I like to visit the front line.
I am not sure whether I was more impressed by the inventions
and designs that were being protected - from graphene to sensor
technologies; by the speedy transition to a digital service; or
by the professionalism and courtesy of the staff.
My challenge is a formidable one. As Mark Twain said 150
years ago, even God could not find any sense in any copyright
law on the planet! So with all humility and cautious optimism,
I am determined that this Government remains alert to the needs
of IP creators and IP users alike. I want the UK to retain its
status as the best IP regime in the world and for the premier
ranking to be felt and recognised by everyone.