Intellectual Property

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons on 11th June 2019.

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Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

What steps he is taking to increase protections for intellectual property.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

As my right hon. Friend is aware, the UK is considered to have one of the best intellectual property systems in the world, and we work continually to help keep that position. The Intellectual Property Office has committed in its recently published strategy to working towards making infringement socially unacceptable. We have commissioned research into consumer attitudes to counterfeit goods in order to assist with that.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

Is my hon. Friend aware that online piracy of video and music content is still doing considerable damage to our creative industries? In particular, beoutQ, based in Saudi Arabia, is stealing content from a wide range of UK rights holders. Will he see what further measures can be taken to tackle this problem? Will he consider including economic harms in the scope of the measures set out in the Government’s Online Harms White Paper?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

Online piracy of any content is a key concern for the Government. We are aware of the specific issues with beoutQ and raised the matter with the Saudi Arabian Government. We will continue to make representations about its alleged infringement of UK creative content and support efforts to tackle piracy, wherever it occurs. However, the White Paper is to have a targeted approach that focuses on harms to individuals; it is not about economic harm to businesses.

Photo of Jonathan Reynolds Jonathan Reynolds Shadow Economic Secretary (Treasury)

It is not just in intellectual property where we need better legal protections. My constituent Mr Michael McGrory of Stalybridge recently took his employer to an employment tribunal for unauthorised deduction of wages, for breach of contract and for disability discrimination. He won his case but, rather than pay up, the company went into liquidation. The same directors set up the same business in the same premises under a different company registration and name. As a result, Mr McGrory cannot get his award enforced. Does the Minister agree that that is wrong? If so, how might we change the company formation process to stop that happening?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. Obviously, we provide funding for the police intellectual property crime unit, which has seen 94 investigations and arrested or voluntarily interviewed 106 individuals recently. The maximum criminal penalties for copyright infringement have increased since 2017 from two years to 10 years. We are determined to do more, which is why we have a conference with the World Intellectual Property Organisation in London on 18 and 19 June, because we need an international response. I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend Mr Whittingdale: this is an international issue, and we need to ensure that we take action.