Press release

UK government to improve protection for businesses against groundless IP threats

The UK government will improve protection to make sure businesses are not exposed to unnecessary and baseless accusations.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The measures being outlined today (26 February 2015) are in response to the Law Commission’s report.

Protection against groundless threats of infringement proceedings will be retained for patents, trade marks, registered and unregistered design right. A number of new reforms will also be introduced. These are:

  • making sure that the threats provisions are much clearer
  • making it easier for parties to make good faith attempts to settle an IP infringement dispute before litigation
  • stopping legal advisers from being subject to threats and accusations, when the dispute is between the parties that they represent

Threats of legal action for IP infringement can cause significant commercial damage to small businesses. They are costly and disruptive, drive customers away and stop business from selling goods and services.

Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said:

We are improving protection against the groundless threats of intellectual property infringement that small businesses can face. Our reforms will make sure the law properly protects businesses from being threatened unfairly, but also allow innovative businesses to resolve disputes legitimately and enforce their rights.

Notes to Editors

  1. In 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills together with the Intellectual Property Office asked the Law Commission to review the law in this area. The review was sought because of concerns that the threats provisions are overly complex and do not work as intended. The Law Commission’s report was published in April 2014. The government response to Law Commission’s groundless threats report has been published today (26 February 2015).
  2. The Law Commission’s report covers patents, trade marks and design rights. Copyright was out of scope of their report and has no threats provisions.
  3. The UK Intellectual Property Office is responsible for Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the United Kingdom, including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright. The UK sees IP enforcement, whether civil or criminal, as crucial for innovation and economic growth, and supports the coordination and cooperation across the IP community to tackle counterfeiting and piracy.
  4. Intellectual property (IP) law protects certain types of business from being unfairly threatened with legal action for infringing someone’s IP. This stops threats being made for the sole purpose of intimidation or to seek an unfair advantage, and where no infringement of an IP right has actually occurred.
Published 26 February 2015