Proposals to reform the law governing threats of legal action in intellectual property cases took a step forward today.

The IP (Unjustified Threats) Bill was passed without amendments during the House of Commons committee stage.

The bill, drafted by the Law Commission, would curtail a legal remedy available to a party threatened with IP litigation on the grounds that a letter constituted an ‘unjustified threat’. The current proposals would alter that remedy and instead create instances where someone cannot be held liable for making such a threat.

Under current rules, a professional adviser acting in their professional capacity and on instructions from a client is also potentially liable.

The proposed bill would also introduce a new provision preventing threats actions from being brought against advisers provided they act on instructions and identify their client in communications.

Matthew Harris, partner at IP, technology and corporate firm Waterfront Solicitors, who gave evidence during the bill’s passage through the House of Lords late last year, welcomed the development. He told the Gazette that the current law puts lawyers and legal advisers at a ‘particular disadvantage’ when acting for clients.

‘Given that the bill is certainly an improvement on existing law, it’s encouraging to see it passed without amendments,’ he said. He added that the proposals would ‘take out technicalities and create a more coherent law’.

The commission published a draft bill last October following a lengthy campaign by the Law Society’s intellectual property law committee.

The bill will now move to the report stage where all MPs can debate the measure before a final reading.