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This is a report on the House of Commons Committee stage of the Intellectual Property Bill [HL]. It complements Research Paper 13/70 prepared for Commons Second Reading. Report stage and Third Reading are scheduled for 12 March 2014.

The Bill would simplify and clarify design protection and ownership, with the aim of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. It would introduce new criminal penalties for copying of UK registered designs, facilitate the UK’s joining the international Hague Agreement, and provide for a new design opinions service. It would also allow for the creation of a Unified Patent Court and the international sharing of information on patents. In addition, there is provision for a research exemption from freedom of information law and for greater accountability on the part of the Intellectual Property Office.

The Public Bill Committee met four times over two days, 28 and 30 January 2014. Many of the issues raised during the Lords stages and at Commons Second Reading surfaced again in Committee. The only substantive amendments were to clauses 3 (qualification for unregistered design right) and 13 (offence of unauthorised copying). Both were moved by the Government.

The clause 3 amendment specifies that a “qualifying person” for the purposes of unregistered design right, when that term refers to a body corporate, must be a business formed under the law of a part of the UK or other qualifying country. This ensures that countries that do not offer reciprocal recognition of design rights cannot benefit from recognition of design rights in the UK.

The clause 13 amendments alter the wording to bring the terminology into line with that used in earlier legislation, to ensure that unintentional copying is not caught by the offence and, the Government argues, to provide a more precise test for the courts. Opposition criticism of the clause at Second Reading, reflected in amendments tabled at Committee stage, centred on two issues: whether criminal sanctions, with a maximum ten years’ prison sentence, were appropriate for design infringement and might discourage creativity; and why the offence covered registered but not unregistered designs.

The last Committee sitting was given over to debate on a variety of new clauses proposed (but not moved) by the Opposition. These included proposals to combat “lookalikes” (products designed to look like well-known products), to bring clarity to retransmission rights for public service broadcasters, to equalise the criminal penalties for digital and physical copyright theft, and to appoint an “IP tsar”.

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