Following a decision by the IP Federation to make its archive available subject to a “30-year” rule, legal scholars, business historians, and others have access in the Weston Library to a wealth of previously unavailable material showing how business reacted to and lobbied on intellectual property (IP) law from 1920 to 1989.
The IP Federation  has today 42 member companies, engaged in a wide range of manufacturing and service provision. Member companies all have a strong UK presence but are mostly parts of international groups, not necessarily headquartered in the UK.
Since its foundation with 13 members in 1920, the Federation has had as its prime object the promotion, in IP matters, of the interests of national and international business . (The Federation’s role has never included representing the interests of the legal professions.) To achieve this object, the Federation has always taken a highly commercially-informed policy view of IP law, a focus that makes the Weston Library archive of especial interest. The Federation has a Council (chaired by a President) that meets monthly, and in addition there are Committees for the various aspects of IP and competition law. The Federation responds rapidly to IP issues that arise, whether as a result of official consultations or otherwise.
The Federation approached Oxford University with a view to donating its 1920-1989 archive for various reasons, including because it has a longstanding Intellectual Property Rights Centre. Dev Gangjee, currently Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Oxford, supported the case for the acceptance of the archive by the Bodleian, and a Senior Archivist, Lucy McCann, worked with the Federation to organise the selection and receipt of the material. The material is sorted into 67 archive boxes, each approximately 7 cm deep. There are boxes containing, from the early years of the Federation, wonderful well-preserved Minute Books with gold lettering on the spine and highly legible manuscript entries. Loose papers are grouped chronologically in folders within boxes.
Coincidentally, the activities of the Federation since the end of 1989 have been written up and published professionally through approximately annual reviews, now all on the internet at https://www.ipfederation.com/ip-federation-review/ . The first review was published under the Federation’s previous brand of TMPDF in 1990  with the title REVIEW of trends and events; the 29th in the series was IP Federation Review of December 2020. Therefore, the Weston Library collection joins up chronologically with what was already publicly available, so that scholars have the opportunity of studying business’s views on IP matters from the foundation of the Federation in 1920 to the present day – although in principle a further donation in due course of post-1989 material would allow them to form a more complete view.
The Federation Council and Committee minutes included in the archive were meticulously and informatively drafted, and supporting material was retained; so, the archive includes, for instance, official consultations and reports, correspondence with other representative organisations, and the final lobbying output of the Federation. It needs to be remembered that the collection was all created in pre-internet days, when a key service of the Federation to its members was to inform them of IP developments worldwide (regardless of whether these were within the scope of its lobbying). From 1952 to 1989, the Federation issued hard-copy monthly private newsletters based on material received from third parties. Not only the Federation documents in the archive but also many third-party documents will be the only copies in the public domain – or even the only copies in existence.
The user of the Weston Library collection will be guided, first, by the library catalogue https://archives.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/repositories/2/resources/9593. The listing of the contents of each box may merely be a general one specifying the range of dates of the material and identifying the IP issues of the time. In some cases it identifies particularly intriguing historical items such as –
in 1943, “Pamphlet … being a detailed report by the [Federation’s] patents committee on matters arising out of wartime emergency legislation;” and
ca 1970-1, ” ‘Paper by T[imothy] W[ade] Roberts for CIPA informals’ discussing ‘peripheral’ vs ‘central’ claiming (a key issue in the runup to the European Patent Convention …).”
Often, the user of the collection will be greatly assisted by manual indexes assiduously created by past Federation Secretaries and included in the boxes. Office computerisation began to resemble what we know today only around 1985. Therefore, manual indexing by topic was essential if the Secretary was to be able to retrieve any previous internal discussions of a particular topic, for instance when a new official consultation was started.
Michael Jewess, firstname.lastname@example.org, 17 October 2021
Honorary Fellow of the IP Federation
 A brief account by the same author of the Federation’s first 100 years is given in the December 2020 issue of IP Federation Review under the title “Snippets from the archives”, accessible from https://www.ipfederation.com/ip-federation-review/.
 The original Memorandum and Articles of Association referred to “traders in the British Empire and Foreign Countries”. The second object was to promote international “conventions” and “arrangements” relating to IP, a clear reference to the benefits that had arisen from the Paris Convention of 1883 establishing priority rights and from the Berne Convention of 1886 on copyright.
 The Reviews refer often to the Policy Papers issued by the Federation. These are also available to scholars, either published at https://www.ipfederation.com/policy-papers/ or else available from the Federation’s Secretariat.
 The official name for the Federation (registered in England as company number 166772) from 1920 to 1951 was “Trade Marks Patents and Designs Federation Limited”, from 1951 to 2014 the same without the “Limited”, and from 2014 “IP Federation”.