The Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Act 2017 (IP Act) comes into force on 1 October 2017 and is set to reform the UK law on unjustified threats in intellectual property (IP) infringement disputes. Threats laws were introduced to prevent threats being misused to stifle competition and block innovation.
One consequence of the threats provisions has been IP owners being reluctant to send a meaningful letter before court action to a suspected infringer resulting in the loss of opportunity to settle outrside of court and save money on legal costs.
After 1 October 2017 when the IP Act is implemented a threat will only be actionable if it would be understood as a threat to bring proceedings in respect of an infringing act done, or intended to be done, in the UK. Regulated professional advisors will also be exempt from liability once the IP Act is implemented if a threat is made on the instructions of a client and the client is identified in the letter before action.
Although the IP Act may not go as far as some had hoped it should mean rightsholders will benefit from the reforms. Intended outcomes of the IP Act are rightsholders able to communicate with suspected infringers more freely avoiding litigation, preserving commercial relationships and saving them money.