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Pressure grows on UK government to appoint new IP minister


The next person to be appointed will be the thirteenth to hold the role in 12 years – and the third in just two months

The UK government has come under pressure to appoint a new minister with responsibility for intellectual property, weeks after the position became vacant.

Both political opposition and IP association the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA) have called on the government to act.

Rachel Wilkinson-Duffy, president of CITMA, said the delay was frustrating.

“Given the importance of IP to our economy and the government’s desire to develop a pro-growth policy environment, selecting a driven and committed minister should be an urgent priority.”

The call to action comes after the government body tasked with overseeing IP, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BEIS), was unable to say who the relevant minister was or provide an update when questioned by an opposition member of Parliament (MP).

In a written question to parliament on November 2, Chi Onwurah, a member of the opposition Labour Party and shadow business minister, asked the secretary of state for BEIS which minister was responsible for IP.

In a response published on November 9, George Freeman, a junior minister in BEIS, was unable to answer.

“The department has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available,” Freeman wrote.

Onwurah told Managing IP that the Labour Party wants the UK to be the best place to buy, make and sell things within a high-wage, high-skill, high-productivity economy.

“Creating, protecting and exploiting IP is critical to that. Having spent two decades in the tech sector I know the importance of IP and IP regulation for innovation, economic growth, and competition and national security.”

She added that the government does not take IP seriously. “They don’t even know who the IP minister is now, having changed the role 12 times in 12 years.”

Managing IP contacted BEIS for an update. In response, a spokesperson said that ministerial portfolios have yet to be formally set out but that they will be “in due course”.

In a social media post yesterday, November 10, the UKIPO said it had met with Kevin Hollinrake MP to talk about the office’s work.

The UKIPO has been contacted for comment on whether Hollinrake will take the role.

Wilkinson-Duffy added that whoever gets the job will have a lot on their plate.

“There is a lot of work to do, including around tightening the rules for representation before the UKIPO to ensure that representatives are appropriately qualified and regulated – this will protect consumers and level the playing field.”

The new minister will be the thirteenth person to hold the position in 12 years – and the third in just two months.

In September, Managing IP argued that the UK should take IP more seriously by making a long-term commitment to the role.

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