Friday 29 November 2013

Scotland's Brave New IP by Sally Cooper

SCOTLAND’S FUTURE – YOUR GUIDE TO AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND is is a title that’s descriptive (rather than distinctive) but it may well attract more readers than (say) ASPIRATIONS FOR SCOTLAND IF THERE’S A “YES” VOTE ON 18 SEPTEMBER 2014.

This writer’s regular work involves discussing with (very small) businesses the key matters of (a) the name they might want to adopt for a new company, and (b) the availability (or otherwise) of Domain names, and (c) the availability (or otherwise) of trade marks.

Also, this writer regularly spends time in Cumbria - where legal work leaving the county might go north (maybe Glasgow or Edinburgh) rather than south. Hence, whilst 24 March 2016 (proposed for “Scottish Independence Day” if there’s a “YES” vote) is comfortably in the future, it’s appropriate to find time to scan SCOTLAND’S FUTURE for clues on possible new regimes for (a) company names, and (b) Domain Names, and (c) trade marks.

The Scotland Act 1998 lists “reserved matters” (being matters on which the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate) but, as SCOTLAND’S FUTURE points out, there’s no parallel list of “devolved matters”. A list is provided (viz : matters on which the present Scottish Parliament can legislate) and this includes :
  • the creation, operation, regulation and dissolution of types of business association
  • intellectual property.

Which this writer reads as saying that the present Scottish Parliament could, if it so wished, set up a Scottish Companies House (governed by local law) or a Scottish Trade Marks Registry (governed by local law) immediately - no need to wait for a “YES” vote and Scottish Independence Day ? Answers in the Comment box please !

SCOTLAND’S FUTURE refers to the new .scot Domain Name applied for by the Dot Scot Registry Limited (a not-for-profit company) which has an estimated launch date in 2015 - after 18 September 2014 but before the date proposed for Scottish Independence Day if there’s a “YES” vote.

Thereafter, hard facts are hard to find.

The press has reported widely both (i) Scotland’s aspiration for transition to independent membership of the European Union, and (ii) Scotland’s aspiration to succeed to international treaties. In the latter context, SCOTLAND’S FUTURE identifies the World Trade Organisation (WIPO) as one of the multi-national organisations in which an independent Scotland will participate.

Further, a passage headed “Intellectual Property” begins with “We will ensure continuity of the legal framework for protecting intellectual property rights” then continues (rather rudely) with “Independence will allow Scotland to offer a simpler and cheaper, more business-friendly model than the current UK system, which is bureaucratic and expensive, especially for small firms”. These same points are made in Questions / Answers which include the grandiose promise that “Scotland will meet [European Union] regulations and directives on IP rights protection, as well as international patent and trademark (sic) protections”.

Otherwise, there are tantalising hints :
  • “We might decide to continue to share some services with the UK, at least for a transitional period” : do we infer (contrary to my reading of the Scotland Act 1998 noted above) that both Companies House and the Trade Marks Registry will remain available to businesses in Scotland for the foreseeable future ?
  •  “Question : Would companies based in an independent Scotland still be able to float on the London stock exchange ? Answer : Yes …… around 2,500 companies from over 70 jurisdictions are listed on the London Stock Exchange” : do we infer that an independent Scotland will create its own company law and so increase the number of such jurisdictions ?
  • “Question : When consumers are harmed, will there be systems in place to help them ? Answer : Yes. We propose …… a more efficient model of trading standards …… “ : maybe good news for brand-owners ?
The website at suggests comments and questions are sent to But this writer won’t be commenting or questioning as she’s no wish to add to the figure of £ 13,700,000 which is the estimated cost of the referendum !

1 comment:

  1. The English are very very good administrators and its clear the Scots know they're going to have trouble interpreting all the many and complex Directives that come from Europe, as well as running their own registers for companies, their own stock exchange etc. I suspect the Scots want us to run their administrations for a while, and here I think a business opportunity opens up. We can do the same for other countries, perhaps Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and ultimately France if we show our competence. Once Scotland has become a sovereign nation in a sort of 'administration union' we could bring others in.