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David Lammy has recently been appointed the UK’s Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property following a government reshuffle. He replaced Baroness Morgan, who held the post for a matter of weeks. She replaced Lord Triesmann, who was the first person to be appointed and was so enamoured of the role that he left after just a few months.
Lammy’s appointment has been welcomed – albeit guardedly – by both the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys. As for the man himself, you can see how thrilled he is with his new job by visiting his home page. There he talks enthusiastically about higher education and how he wants to expand opportunities, especially for those from the UK’s inner cities. About IP, however, he says absolutely nothing. In fact, he actually omits IP when giving his job title. It does not fill you with much optimism, does it?
Lammy is the latest in a string of UK IP-related appointments in which those given posts have very little, if any, IP background – in patents especially. I firmly believe that IP should not be the preserve of lawyers and other specialists. It is too important to be hidden away in an inaccessible niche. But I do think that at least some credentials and/or established interest is necessary if you are to be responsible for making and monitoring policy in a country where IP is clearly a crucial economic asset. Before taking on their present roles, it seems that our IP minister, the head of the UK IP Office and the chairman of the Strategic Advisory Board for IP Policy had not a single IP credential from their previous lives to share between them. IP is vitally important to the UK. The identities of our current IP leaders do not seem to reflect that simple fact.