We've had an interesting case land on our desk this week, which highlights the importance of registering a mark as soon as a business gets off the ground. It's quite a tricky case, involving a small UK firm and a multinational company and one of its sub-brands. There is no immediate easy answer. Read on to find out how we plan to tackle it.
We are an independent firm, which works to protect original ideas and the interests of those who create them. Specialising in patents, trade marks and design protection, we work with companies from small start-ups to multi-nationals, producing effective and affordable strategies for protecting your brand, invention or design.
A Difficult Examiner
Several years ago, a multinational company adopted a trade mark that covers one of its sub-brands. Despite being a fairly non-descript word that (in English) is used fairly widely in this field, registration of the mark was allowed and no-one objected at the time.
It was a considerable amount of time before the sub-brand was rolled out to the UK, during which time our client set up their business and adopted a name (in good faith) that conflicts with the registered trade mark. Fast forward to the present day, and now that the multinational has started to use the sub-brand in the UK, they have started writing to the various UK companies that are using this word in their names to ask them to stop.
Our client didn't seek to register the name of their company at the time of its inception, and herein lies the problem.
If the client had registered their mark immediately, the potential conflict with the multinational would have been brought to their attention. There were lengthy periods during which the multinational’s trade mark registrations were vulnerable to a challenge on the basis that the trade marks had not been used in the UK – a continuous period of five years of non-use is enough for the registration to be revoked, but only if someone applies to the Registrar while the mark is still not being used. However, now that the sub-brand is in use this avenue is no longer open to the client. Likewise, we cannot rely on an acquiescence defence, because this requires the client’s mark to be registered. The client’s only real option is to challenge the distinctiveness of the trade mark – not impossible by any means, but certainly not a trivial task.
The lesson of this tale is a familiar one – register the mark at the start of the business, or as soon as possible thereafter. Even if that reveals problems, you’re better off knowing about them sooner rather than later.
IPO publishes research priorities
The IPO has published its research priorities for 2015/16 covering all areas of intellectual property. The priorities will be delivered under three cross cutting policy themes:
• enforcement and infringement
• innovation and growth
• the value of intellectual property
The IPO says that this approach will allow it to look at issues like the impact of intellectual property on innovation. It will also consider how IP rights interact and add value to each other and the economy. It welcomes expressions of interest in taking forward these priorities.
US rappers Jay-Z and Timbaland get day in court
One of the longest running active lawsuits in America will finally come to trial. It's likely to get under way under a hail of paparazzi flashlights as rappers Jay-Z and Timbaland are due to testify. It's a complex case involving copyright infringement and moral rights of authors in Egyptian law. We await the outcome with interest.
Whatever the outcome, the case is yet another example of the tension between the artists who want to express themselves as they wish and the lawyers who want and need to tie everything down in advance. Click here to read more.
Olympic logo scrapped
Plagiarism claims have led to the logo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games being scrapped. Just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean it’s available to use! Click here to read more.