The Solicitors Regulation Authority has revised the terms and conditions to its £250,000 award scheme for technology-based innovations - but has reserved the right to exploit winning ideas if the entrant does not. The Legal Access Challenge, run jointly with innovation foundation Nesta Challenges, plans to award £50,000 grants to ’the most promising new ideas that use technology to help more people access legal services’. Funding for the scheme comes from central government.
When the competition was announced earlier in the summer the terms and conditions raised eyebrows because of clauses covering intellectual property rights. These included granting the SRA 'an irrevocable, worldwide, non-exclusive right’ to use or develop 'any participant IPR for the purposes of guiding and encouraging innovation within the legal sector’. A further clause granted the SRA the right 'to commercially exploit’ IPR if the winner fails to exploit the innovation within five years.
However in the small print of an emailed reminder of the 11 August deadline for entries, the scheme’s organisers say 'in response to feedback from applicants, we have made some updates to the participant terms and conditions’. These ’clarify the limited ways in which the SRA may use know-how gained from participant entries for the purpose of delivering better regulation and encouraging the adoption of technology in the legal sector’.
However while the section on IP rights now contains a clause stating that entrants will retain all IP rights in products and services ‘unrelated to the participant entry IPR’, the clause granting the SRA rights to ‘use know-how’ from the entry remains. Likewise, the SRA will retain the right to take over orphan entries.
An SRA spokesperson said that its hands are tied by the scheme’s funding. 'It is a condition of Innovate UK, that in order to help drive better regulation we retain ownership of the intellectual property rights of any entries. We are aware this is a sensitive issue and have amended the terms and conditions to provide applicants with greater reassurance over what exactly this entails.’