I’m the chief economist of the IPO and our job is to shape a framework. We’re not an innovation agency, but we shape the framework. We like to think that we have the strongest commitment to economics and evidence-based policy of any IP office in the world, partly because that was what Ian Hargreaves told us to do (with his recommendation No. 1), and we’ve followed it through. Because of that we are seen, within the EU, and more widely, as wanting to see the evidence before we accept the case for policy. We accept that we’re not always popular in Europe for wanting to do that. And because of that, we bring demand to this process. We want answers. We need evidence, and we need it to be practical. The team that we’ve built up in the IPO has practical skills, as others have suggested. The group of economists has experience in related areas around IP; competition, assessing regulations, understanding business models, innovation strategy and how IP fits into GDP, all of those things that we can do.
So use us as a resource. Use us because we will be happy to collaborate with the programme, as it goes forward. We are strong on the technical side, and quite entrepreneurial even if you think of us as bureaucrats (laughs).
Our biggest single issue, copyright as the most important area, and design, are the areas where the problems are. IP economists have spent the last 20 years mining patent and trademark law, and learning lots of really useful stuff, but we need to persuade more researchers to go and explore where the data isn’t, and set about digging it out. We need to develop methods for data sharing, with those people who have got data, within the industry.
We need methods and approaches to understanding those areas, shaped by new technology, and by new distribution systems for content – where the data simply doesn’t exist at all. And I think we need to gather the data in a way that reflects the questions that were aired earlier on – IP is not just about rights to money, it’s about determining how the value is distributed, and how it fulfils its function as an incentive, defined by the phrase in the US constitution which we rather like, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. That’s what IP is for, and if it fails to do that it isn’t doing its job.
So, what’s the biggest single issue between now and five years hence? We’re probably all in agreement so far – it’s enforcement, it’s actually making sure that creators can get their reward. The longest project we’re launching this year is about enforcement, about building an economic approach to IP enforcement. At the moment, the government and industry do not have an evidence-based approach to what works in this area. The trade-off between costs of infringement and gains from enforcement isn’t supported by evidence to give us understanding of policy outcomes. That means policy is often set by people who shout loudest. We’ve seen what’s happens as a result, we’ve discussed it today. Policy focused on the allegedly draconian measures of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, sank because they were rejected by people in the real world outside, because we couldn’t prove – no-one could prove – that they were the right thing to do. If we want the IP system to work, to deliver the incentives, we need evidence to build trust. That is what you need to justify the fair return that IP needs, you need that trust.
And finally, how do we see our interests connecting with CREATe? We have some real demonstrations today of CREATe growing well beyond its academic roots, and taking advice not just from theory but from empirical evidence. That empirical evidence is really important, and to develop it you will have to build ever-stronger relationships with industry. You have made a good start but you will need to go further. You will need experimental business models to tell us what works in the creative internet economy. There is only one way to test a business model, and that’s in business (laughs).
Your success will be measured by how many people, and how much of the value chain in British creative industries, you manage to get into that process of testing business models. Good luck!