Sunday, 10 May 2009

Early Assist for Trademark Applicants

I have been working on a personal response to the UK IPO consultation on credit crunch fee structures which is due in before 1 June 2009. To download the consultation paper go to

The overriding objective of the consultation is that businesses should protect their trademarks and inventions. It is also clear that the IPO feel some responsibility to the significant proportion of unrepresented applicants. These may represent a larger proportion of applications abandoned before advertisement and they were certainly a category Gowers cared about. Of course we must point out that there are some very cost-effective qualified trademark professionals available for hire amongst the SOLO group. If you need or want to offer help post a comment.

Amongst the proposals are a new Early Assist program, abolition or suspension of the Fast Track and encouragement for e-filing. The Early assist program appears to replace the recently abolished Search and Advisory Service and would let businesses get help and refunds of some of their fees if they wanted to represent themselves.
If I were an entrepreneur starting a business today with next to no cash, I would not spend what I had on a trademark attorney. I would try the DIY route. I might not bother to protect my mark at all. If I were starting a stay-small business it is not much of a priority, but let's suppose I want to grow my business then protecting the brand is on the agenda and a UK trademark is a good place to start. For such a one, is this Early Assist program the best solution? Can we improve it? I think we can. I think it could be better offered as IP Aid by selected quality approved private practitioners rather than through the IPO. Some of the more innovative filing services such as Trademark Direct are already offering a No TM No fee guarantee. Our entrepreneur does not want to waste his limited cash. In the beginning it is easier to change a name than fight a war.
Therefore I think this idea needs encouragement and I am hoping we can think of ways that would make it work better and ensure that the trademarks registered with such assistance are not just in compliance with the Act and rules, but the right protection for the business as well.

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