A bill designed to make it easier for lawyers to act for their clients in intellectual property disputes is close to completing its passage through parliament.
The IP (Unjustified Threats) Bill passed the report stage, where all MPs can debate it, and third reading without amendments yesterday. The bill now requires only royal assent before becoming law.
Commending the bill to a sparsely populated House of Commons, IP minister Jo Johnson said that ‘IP is crucial to supporting growth’ and that he was pleased that this ‘vital and important piece of legislation’ was completing its passage.
The bill, drafted by the Law Commission, would curtail a legal remedy currently available to a party threatened with IP litigation on the grounds that a letter constituted an ‘unjustified threat’. Under current rules, a professional adviser acting in their professional capacity and on instructions from a client is also potentially liable.
The current proposals would alter that remedy and instead create instances where an adviser cannot be held liable for making such a threat. The bill would also introduce a provision preventing threats actions from being brought against advisers provided they act on instructions and identify their client in communications.
In January, the bill passed the committee stage without amendments.
During yesterday’s debate, Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central, proposed an amendment requiring the government to report on the impact that leaving the EU would have on the bill. However Johnson said the measures in the bill do not derive from EU law and are ‘home-grown’ provisions that were first enacted in the 19th century.
‘The important protections provided by the bill will not in themselves be changed by Brexit,’ he said, adding that accepting the proposed new clause would be ‘unnecessary and potentially harmful.’ Another amendment regarding the wording of the bill, also proposed by Esterson, was also rejected for creating ‘additional and unwelcome complexity’.