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There are several types of intellectual property (IP) protection including patents, trade marks and design rights. IP rights can sometimes be used by a trader or business to threaten a rival without justification. Statutory protection has developed so that an aggrieved person can take action against someone making threats. They might obtain:

  • an injunction to prevent more threats being made; or
  • a declaration that the threats are unjustified.

They might also claim damages for loss caused by the threat.

The Law Commission has referred to a case where eBay removed bikes from its website after another seller claimed to have registered the design of the bikes. The designs were not in fact registered. The claimant in the case obtained an order to stop any further threats being made, and was able to resume trading.

A Law Commission review of unjustified threats to IP rights found, among other things, that the threat of infringement proceedings can cause commercial damage to businesses. IP litigation is also perceived as being expensive and disruptive. A draft Bill was published by the Law Commission in October 2015.

The Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill [HL] 2016-17 was introduced in the House of Lords on 19 May 2016.

As the Bill is a Law Commission Bill, it is subject to particular parliamentary procedures. These are described in a Library Briefing Paper, The Law Commission and Law Commission Bill Procedures.

The Bill received cross-party support in the Lords. A number of Government amendments were agreed to at the Bill’s Report Stage.

The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 13 December 2016. It was debated in a Second Reading Committee on 16 January 2017 where it was broadly welcomed by Labour and the SNP. The Bill was not amended in Public Bill Committee on 24 January 2017.

The Bill would reform the law of unjustified, or groundless, threats as it applies to patents, trade marks and designs. It would extend to the whole of the UK. 

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