London
11 January 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Jo Johnson is new UK IP minister


Jo Johnson has been announced as the new UK intellectual property minister following the departure of Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe from the role in December.

Johnson, the UK’s MP for Orpington, will remain minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation and take over Neville-Rolfe’s responsibilities in IP.

Lord Prior of Brampton was rumoured to be taking over certain aspects of Neville-Rolfe’s role following her move to the Treasury. He has now taken responsibility for issues relating to the EU single market.

Neville-Rolfe moved to the UK Treasury in December to be commercial secretary (minister of state).

She held the IP role for two-and-a-half-years and most recently confirmed that the UK intends to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement, despite the country’s vote to leave the EU.

Commenting on the new appointment, Mark Owen, partner in the IP and IT team and UK head of technology media and communications at Taylor Wessing, said: “Baroness Neville-Rolfe was appreciated by the UK’s IP community both because of the enthusiasm and interest she brought to the role, but in particular because she held it for two-and-a-half-years, which encouraged continuity and better joined-up policy making than previously.”

“Before her appointment there had been a long list of short term and quickly forgotten IP ministers, reinforcing the impression that IP was not taken seriously by successive governments.”

He speculated: “While we don’t know the reason for her move, it is notable that it comes shortly after the most notable UK IP policy move this year, the ratification of the Unified Patent Court.”

“It is quite possible that with that done, she feels she has done her bit for IP and a reshuffle just before the detailed effect of Brexit for IP rights starts to be hammered out is sensible timing, allowing the new minister time to get to know the area before the serious and long term work of what the UK’s new IP framework should look like.”

“It will be vital and difficult work and we hope he will show the same level of interest and engagement as Baroness Neville-Rolfe.”

Weighing in on the new appointment, president of the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, Kate O’Rourke, said: “We are looking forward to working closely with Jo Johnson MP, and we would like to congratulate him on the new appointment.”

“Collaboration when planning for challenges that lie ahead, including the UK’s exit from the European Union, will be vital.”

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