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An Open Letter to Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock says that “intellectual property underpins this nation’s prosperity”, and describes the government’s commitment to protecting IP as “unwavering”. It is disappointing, therefore, that his speech to the Alliance For IP (Wednesday 17 January) contained no reference to any potential changes to the UK Intellectual Property Office’s present narrow and outdated stance on the patentability of technology — specifically, software.

That Hancock’s speech focused exclusively on IP issues affecting the digital arts — such as design, branding, and copyright — was undoubtedly a case of playing to the gallery; the Alliance for IP campaigns on exactly these issues. But for the government’s ranking minister on all things “digital” to entirely omit patents and technology from his speech shows a worrying lack of understanding of the vital significance of IP to the technology-led innovation and software-driven businesses that constitute the engine room of the UK’s digital economy.

I would like to ask the Secretary of State why, if the government is so committed to protecting UK companies’ IP, the UKIPO continues to uphold its negative approach to the patentability of computer implemented inventions, and what impact he believes the outdating thinking of what constitutes technical innovation will have on the ability of technology startups to innovate in the UK, and ultimately their resolve to stay here.

— Peter Finnie, managing partner, Gill Jennings & Every LLP