SCL Meeting Report: ‘Back to Basics: Data Protection and Intellectual Property for IT Lawyers’

January 30, 2012

On 25 January 2012, at DLA Piper’s Leeds office, the SCL Northern Group held a session on Data Protection and Intellectual Property for IT Lawyers. The meeting was chaired by Stewart James, a partner at DLA Piper andChair of the SCL Northern Group. It included talks from three engaging and high quality speakers.

The first speaker was Samantha Livesey, a Partner at Pinsent Masons LLP. She gave a talk entitled ‘Data Protection Compliance: Back to Basics’. Samantha kicked off with a reminder of the basic principles of data protection law before turning to focus on more specific practical issues such as how to handle international data transfers, rules around electronic direct marketing and the practical risks of non-compliance. Samantha also discussed some of the latest developments in the field focusing on the new draft Data Protection Directive (published that day) and concluded that, whilst the proposed changes create a more onerous regime overall, it is clear that many of the changes (for example the right to be forgotten) reflect the need to bring privacy law into the digital age. Samantha rounded up her talk with an engaging interactive workshop which allowed everyone to test their new found data protection skills in relation to some common practical issues faced in this sphere.

Next, Dermot Maguire, Head of Intellectual Property UK and Ireland for Fujitsu Services Limited, talked us through IPR in IT from an in-house perspective. Dermot began by exploring the importance of IP in securing competitive advantage for businesses before taking us though a reminder on the basic principles of IP law within the IT sector. Dermot then turned to focus on the application of copyright to software and the role of confidentiality in protecting valuable IP before concluding with some practical tips on drafting software licences, non-disclosure agreements and the dangers of joint ownership of IP.

Finally Ian Robinson, a Partner at Appleyard Lees, gave a practical and engaging talk on software patents. Ian explained the advantages of patents over copyright protection, highlighting that, whilst copyright may be useful to protect software developers from former co-workers, it is less useful in protecting against competitors who may develop a competing product independently – thus undermining any allegations of copying. Ian also provided an insight into the different approaches adopted by patent offices in the UK, Europe and US, explained what makes software patents distinctive from other patents and explored whether there is still a place for patents within a pro-open source environment. Ian concluded by highlighting the advantages of building processes into software development businesses to ensure innovations are recognised in time and that appropriate protection can be put in place prior to release.

Jenny Wilson is a solicitor in the Intellectual Property & Technology Group at DLA Piper UK LLP.