Britain has a lot to be worrying about at the moment, and the resignation of Jo Johnson as (amongst other things) IP Minister is part of a much bigger picture. However, it is worth reflecting on the impact that all this grand politics has on the day-to-day functioning of the myriad components that support our economy.
We’re lucky to have a fantastic IP infrastructure in the UK – great innovators, a thriving IP profession, a world-leading IPO, but it sometimes feels as though this is despite our policy makers rather than because of them. In recent years, we’ve seen the likes of Chris Skidmore and Sam Gyimah come and go in rapid succession, and with IP accounting for a minor proportion of their portfolio, some have made extraordinary efforts to fulfil their brief. Baroness Neville-Rolfe remains legendary for her contribution. Yet there is only so much that can be achieved with such a short time and such a steep learning curve; ministers in the role have to hit the ground running to make a mark. Our latest incumbent would have needed Usain Bolt’s sprint skills to achieve anything; Jo Johnson was announced as IP Minister on 16th August, and resigned yesterday (6 September 2019) – surely a record of just 15 working days in office.
Luckily government ticks on regardless, and the innovators and lawyers are ceaseless in their efforts to improve the system in something of a vacuum. Britain plc’s message throughout the last three years of Brexit uncertainty has been “business as usual” and that will remain an accurate statement in the world of IP. But the latest IP Ministerial casualty is a reminder that this is because business itself is taking the lead in keeping things steady.
Continuity and certainty in the world of IP is a self-evident win for every stakeholder and every economy. How wonderful it would be if this was because of, not despite the events raging over our heads.
Professor Gwilym Roberts, Chairman Kilburn & Strode