Importance of maintaining EPC membership is stressed to parliamentary inquiry

Chief Executive Lee Davies has told the House of Commons’ International Trade Committee of the importance of protecting the UK’s membership of the European Patent Convention (EPC) during ongoing negotiations for the UK to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Lee gave evidence relating to concerns that certain intellectual property provisions of the CPTPP could be inconsistent with the UK’s obligations to the EPC, specifically the requirement to introduce a grace period.

Lee told the committee: “CIPA supports fully the UK Government’s aspirations for international trade. We want to see the UK within the CPTPP. The intellectual property system exists to facilitate the innovation that is so important for our economic growth. We have engaged with Government up to ministerial level and with Members across both Houses, including with members of this Committee.

“We have provided briefing papers to Government and to colleagues in the Department for International Trade. We have appreciated so many MPs and peers listening to us. There are a number around this table today that we have had conversations with, and we are really confident that our messages have been heard and understood by Government.

The Government are committed to protecting their existing international commitments. In their opening gambit for accession to CPTPP, they state quite clearly that they want to preserve and protect the UK’s place in the EPC. That position has been confirmed to us in writing by Ministers.

“We are confident that we have had a good hearing. We appreciate the opportunity to give evidence today. We are not complacent. We recognise that things can swing at the last moment in trade negotiations.”

Lee told Committee Chair Angus MacNeill MP that the UK patent profession was worth £1billion gross value added to the economy and that this was potentially at risk should EPC membership not be maintained. Lee said that the UK’s creative industries relied on the profession and urged the committee to consider the wider implications of the issue.

In response to a question from Anthony Mangnall MP about IP gold standards as they relate to trade agreements, Lee said that international patent law harmonisation was the goal.

“There has been good work on this, and there is still much more work to do, but that for us would be the gold standard,” he said.

Lee appeared at the select committee hearing, on January 25, alongside Professor Kimberlee Weatherall, expert on IP and trade agreements at the University of Sydney, and Dr Bobby Mukherjee, Chair of the IP Federation’s trade working group.

Read the full transcript of the session (Lee’s evidence beings on p.19). Or watch the session on Parliament TV.

Date published: January 30

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