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UK IP Tsar ruled out

The UK minister in charge of intellectual property rejected calls from members of the House of Lords yesterday for the creation of a new IP Tsar post

Viscount Younger of Leckie, who took over the job of IP minister this month following the resignation of Lord Marland (who had served less than six months in the role) went on to defend the government’s approach to IP protection after fellow peers declared that “all is not well” with copyright rules in the UK.

Younger was speaking during a debate on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill in the grand committee of the House of Lords. The Bill includes a series of measures to extend copyright exceptions in the UK.

Conservative Party peer Lord Jenkin of Roding had tabled an amendment to establish a new post of Director General of Intellectual Property Rights. The holder would have responsibility for promoting the creation of new intellectual property; protecting and promoting the interests of UK IP owners; coordinating effective enforcement of UK IP rights; and educating consumers on the nature and value of intellectual property.

His amendment received support from a number of peers – many of whom declared an interest in copyright-owning companies.

One of the supporters was former Labour government minister Estelle Morris, now Baroness Morris of Yardley, who explained how her opinions have been shaped during her time as a junior minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“Quite honestly, going back to my days in the DCMS, I was horrified at the lack of co-ordination of intellectual property across government. I spent seven years or more in government and I never felt as much animosity about copyright as there was between the DCMS and the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry], as it was in those days. The two departments were on different sides.”

She concluded that “all is not right and all is not well so far as concerns protecting intellectual property” and said that the creation of an IP Tsar would help to solve some of the problems.

But the amendment was given short-shrift by the minister. “[m]y noble friend Lord Clement-Jones referred to a proposal for a tsar to enforce intellectual property, much as there is in the USA. I reconfirm that I am the Minister for Intellectual Property. I believe that no other country has such a post,” said Viscount Younger.

At the end of the debate Lord Jenkin withdrew his amendment, but said that there was a lack of co-ordination across Whitehall, which he likened to “a lack of the same kind of recognition of the importance of IP lying at the heart of our economy”. He added: “We have got to look at this very carefully. Parliament has an opportunity to express its views. I have no doubt at all that we shall want to return to the matter at Report.”

The All-Party IP Group of MPs made similar criticisms about UK government IP policy last year, and had particular concerns about copyright policy. Its vice-chair Pete Wishart was interviewed by Managing IP when its report was announced.

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