Advice on intellectual property rights
Having been reminded recently of the varying attitudes to illegal music downloads, the web review this month gains quick (but perfectly legal) access to the material (all still under copyright) to be found on these IP sites.
Intellectual Property Office
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (www.bis.gov.uk) and deals with patents, trade marks, designs, copyright, and other protections including for example company names, and database rights and trade secrets.
The website is a very good one. Especially for those who are not already conversant with the law in this area, it provides an excellent (and relatively detailed) introduction.
The online services are also excellent, and include filing patent and trade mark applications electronically, searching the online registers, and viewing the various official journals online. These services are also (as far as I could see) all free – apart from the fees for lodging applications, of course.
One of the major difficulties faced by novices to IP is which type of protection is appropriate for any given set of circumstances. The website deals with this by offering an interactive animated “IP Armour” game – which is a diverting way to spend a few minutes and a nice refresher in the difference between trade marks and copyright (to give one example). It might even qualify for CPD!
The “fun and games” sections for each type of IP may not seem like the most obvious place for lawyers to be looking, but the quizzes may be a useful way of consolidating knowledge – even if they do tend to have an authoritarian streak, being at pains to remind the public of the perils of sharing music or copying DVDs.
Federation Against Copyright Theft
Speaking of which, the next site is that of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) – you know, the ones who do those warnings at the beginning of films at the cinema.
The first section I was drawn to, called “Criminal Legislation”, was a huge disappointment. Despite claiming to be a list of the principal anti-piracy legislation in the United Kingdom, under the subheading “Scotland” it reads simply “more information to follow”. This is all the more frustrating given that IP law is a reserved matter and therefore not wildly different on both sides of the border. Indeed, a quick check revealed that much of the legislation referred to under “England and Wales” applies equally in Scotland. Even if this were not the case, FACT have been going for a while now and should have taken the trouble to make sure that their website treats Scotland (and Northern Ireland) as more than an irrelevant footnote to their areas of interest.
There is a prominent link to a UK Film Council website (www.findanyfilm.com) which lets you track down obscure films on DVD, TV, (legal) download etc, and is probably the most useful thing about the FACT site, as most of the rest of the site is industry propaganda urging people to not buy pirate DVDs and to report people who do. Their FAQ section does admit, however, that “it is not an offence to buy pirated DVDs”. Of course, the best pirate movie of all is Pirates of Penzance (1983), starring Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt and Angela Lansbury.
Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP
This solicitors’ firm (based in London) offers a series of regular updates on a variety of legal topics. This site has its Commercial/IP/IT updates and is well worth a visit. The main page is essentially the contents page for the most recent (monthly) edition. The site allows you to read each article online or download the edition in PDF. You can also search, or browse, the archive of articles, which stretches back to October 2001.
The articles are fairly brief, but are also up to date, well written and contain thoughtful and detailed analysis of recent developments in the law – no mean feat.
The real benefit is in subscribing to the regular email bulletins, which bring you the content on the site, and also other information from the relevant department. If you work in IP, or have an interest in it, I’d recommend that you do that straightaway.
A little closer to home, Pinsent Masons’ formidable out-law.com fulfils a similar function, though its email bulletins can be received weekly and, although it states that it focuses mainly on e-commerce and IT law, inevitably there’s a fair bit of IP mixed in too.