Amid plenty of fanfare, UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced plans to develop part of East London as a global IP hub that will compete with Silicon Valley. With the existing tech park dubbed “Silicon Roundabout” the plans are certainly ambitious, and David Cameron looked to two (US) tech giants to give credibility to the plans. The trouble for the Government, though, is that he seems to have jumped the gun.
After telling us that he’s going to review copyright law in the hope of creating another Google, David Cameron said that Google would create an innovation hub in East London and that Facebook will create a permanent home in East London for their Developer Garage programme.
Facebook responded immediately, first in a post on TechCrunch and then on Twitter. On TechCrunch, Dave Nattriss, Secretary of the Facebook Developer Garage that is already in London, said:
“‘Facebook will create a permanent home in East London for their Developer Garage programme’ – hmm, that’s news to us! We have been using TechHub for the past few months for our events, but it’s barely ‘east London’, and certainly not permanent, nor has been created as a home for our organisation. So we’re not really sure what Cameron is referring to on that one?!”
He followed that up with another comment:
“They didn’t tell us … And we’ve since had confirmation from Facebook’s European Policy Manager that they have no plans to move or start another office as things stand. Cameron’s people seem to have jumped the gun on this point at least.”
So where does this leave the plans for growing Silicon Roundabout? It seems that their implementation was not imminent, but this news will only add to the suspicion that this was a PR stunt that has not been thought through in any great depth. Many are also surprised that Google, which has been a lightening rod for criticism from IP owners, should be the catalyst for another IP review (according to the report here). It’s also interesting to note that neither of the two companies referred to are UK-based companies: should the Government be focussing on innovation from within the UK, rather than importing it from outside?
And here’s something to ponder: if David Cameron’s speech was intended to attract investment, was it a commercial communication? If so, and if he used the “Facebook” mark without Facebook’s permission, has he committed trademark infringement and/or passing off?
See more here.