In 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Intellectual Property Office asked the Law Commission to review the existing threats provisions within patent, trade mark and design law. The Law Commission published a Consultation Paper in 2013 and responses showed strong support for retaining protection against unjustified threats and overall support for reform of the existing law.
The consultation exercise was followed by a Law Commission Report in April 2014, which summarised the responses received and made 18 recommendations for reform. The Government responded on 26 February 2015, accepting the recommendations (in a few cases with some qualifications), and tasked the Law Commission with drafting a bill. This was published along with the Law Commission final report on 12 October 2015. The Government then conducted a public consultation on the draft bill during late 2015, and published its response to that consultation on 28 January 2016.
The Government explains that the aim of the Unjustified Threats Bill is “to make life easier for businesses and entrepreneurs”. It does this by:
- clarifying the type of communications that are permitted between parties involved in a dispute over IP infringement;
- preventing the misuse of threats to intimidate or gain an unfair advantage in circumstances where no infringement of an IP right has actually occurred; and
- providing a clear framework within which businesses and their professional advisors can operate to resolve disputes, including attempting to negotiate a settlement before turning to litigation.
The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 19 May 2016 and will follow the special Parliamentary procedure for bills that implement Law Commission recommendations. To access the relevant documents, click here.