IP in the UK

Sir Robin Jacob, Daniel Alexander QC, and Matthew Fisher, Guidebook to Intellectual Property (6th ed.): With dry humor, this book surveys British IP law for nonlawyers/business student types.  I’m not in a position to comment too much on substance.  In any event, the book repeatedly takes the position that when IP rights are at issue it’s often better to settle/go away than to fight even if the claimed right is of dubious validity, which is a position to which I am constitutionally opposed although I understand its practicalities (until you find out that there are no names left available for your business, anyway …).  According to the authors, limits on damages in UK law somewhat mitigate this risk, but this conclusion on patents is typical: “The great majority of patents go through their lives in peace, with nobody really convinced they are valid, but nobody prepared to take the risk of infringing them. Commercially they are just as useful as if they had been valid. Thus, even an invalid patent is often valuable enough to make it worthwhile keeping on bluffing until the bitter end. And there is a lot of truth in the old adage ‘a weak patent in strong hands is worth more than a strong patent in weak hands.’”  Gotta love a good chiasmus.

I appreciated the grace notes of the writing.  “Almost unbelievably, there are now two sorts of unregistered design right …. Unbelievably (again!) there are two sorts of registered design ….”  As for the moral right of paternity, “it may be thought that this is a physiologically and psychologically implausible term, as well as being sexist. Indeed, this is so.”  The following trenchant observations aren’t specific to UK/EU law: “as is coming to be more usual in IP legislation, the draftsman has been careful not to use words that mean anything very definite, either to a lawyer or to anyone else.”  And as for private drafters, “[i]t should in particular be assumed that any agreement drawn up by business people will prove difficult for lawyers (including judges) to sort out; for lawyers and business people have quite different ideas both as to the way they use language and as to the sort of things that agreements ought to provide for.”  Truer words indeed.
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