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UK IP reforms face House of Lords test


Members of the House of Lords are debating controversial plans to repeal or replace all EU legislation, including swathes of IP laws, by the end of 2023

The UK government’s plan to repeal or reform at least 60 pieces of EU-era intellectual property laws by the end of this year faced its first real hurdle yesterday, February 6, after the House of Lords indicated it might seek changes.

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022 was subject to a second reading in the Lords, the upper chamber of the UK parliament, last night. The bill passed the House of Commons, the lower chamber, in January.

A first reading took place in the Lords late last month. However, these proceedings are usually just a formality. It is only on second reading that members get a chance to properly debate a bill’s contents.

Last night’s debate, which lasted more than five hours, finished shortly after 10.30pm. A written transcript showed that some members were concerned about the bill’s provisions – including on IP rights.

According to the Liberal Democrat politician Lord Clement-Jones, who is also a consultant and former London managing partner at DLA Piper, a “potentially massive” change to IP rights is on the cards.

“If these [IP rights] fall away, it creates huge uncertainty and incentive for litigation. The IP regulations and case law on the dashboard which could be sunsetted encompass a whole range, from databases, computer programs and performing rights to protections for medicines,” Clement-Jones said.

In an article for UK politics website Politics Home ahead of the debate, Lord Kirkhope, a Conservative politician, said he anticipated that the bill would face opposition from across the chamber.

The bill was published in September last year. It set out plans to repeal all retained EU law by December 31 2023 unless directly converted into national law or tweaked.

According to reports earlier this year, some departments were keen for the deadline to be extended until 2026. There is already a provision in the bill allowing for an extension to 2026, but the intention was for this to only apply to the most complex laws.

However, the government has insisted it will plough ahead with its plans.

In last night’s debate, Clement-Jones also highlighted artists’ resale and royalty rights as particularly at risk.

“Visual artists are some of the lowest-earning creators, earning between £5,000 and £10,000 a year. Are these rights dispensable? Have the government formed any view at all yet?” he asked.

Those are just a handful of the IP rights that could be swallowed up into the bill.

Of the thousands of laws implemented during the UK’s membership of the EU, at least 60 were related to IP. Vast swathes of the UK’s trademarks, designs, and trade secrets regimes originate from EU statutes.

The next stage for the bill is the committee stage, during which every clause of the bill has to be agreed and votes on any suggested amendments are allowed. This is expected to take place later this month.

However, it is likely that it will shift between the two houses as any amendments made in the Lords would need to be considered by the House of Commons.

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