Thursday 4 August 2011

Ploughing a lonely furrow? IP practice in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland: better known
for its climate than for its IP?
Today's post on PatLit about litigating patents in Northern Ireland set me thinking. While Northern Ireland is governed by much the same statutory provisions covering intellectual property law as is the rest of the United Kingdom, its small population (fewer than 2 million) and largely agrarian economy probably offer less scope for developing an intellectual property-based practice and in building concentrations of expertise.  Also, because of its geographical isolation, IP practitioners must inevitably find it difficult to network with professional colleagues, attend seminars and so on.  The spread of the internet  and the increased use of webinars, Skype and the social media may have ameliorated the position, but being an IP specialist in private practice in Northern Ireland must still be quite a lonely job.

Does SOLO IP have any Northern Ireland readers out there who would like to share their thoughts and feelings with others -- or who can disabuse this blogger of the impression he has painted above? If so, we'll be delighted to hear from you.


  1. Time for a trip to Belfast Jeromy. Innovation support is always strongest in deprived communities. It comes a close second to erecting strange artistic sculptures to mark at such places.
    Have a look at InvestNI

  2. Hi Jeromy, I am not an attorney but IP protection gets quite a bit of grant support, some of which is tendered out, and this can create a strange effect on the competitive nature of this service sector. For such a small place there is quite a lot of IP solicitors and attorneys, but the Int or European Patent application filing rate is still a bit low, in 2009 about 550 European patent applications were filed in Ireland, 10% from N. Ireland. As Barbara mentions, sculptures are popping up in Belfast. The new fullerene type of sculpture is almost invisible and strange two story copper tusks have been erected on one side of the main street. Also the Love Belfast Logo has raised IP issues (novelty) of its own, and the Titanic Quarter is trying to brand a human and engineering disaster into a tourist attraction. As for copyright on the Paramilitary Murals... well maybe that's enough.

  3. Just happened to be on the CIPA website and noticed that the membership list shows just 4 qualified patent attorneys with addresses in Northern Ireland.

  4. Hi Jeremy,
    I work for Invest NI and I am part of a small team that tries to help NI business with technical issues including their IP issues. Some businesses have a very low knowledge of IP and so we have an educational function in explaining the difference between patents and trade marks and copyright and design right. We usually do some basic searches (trade marks and patents) and then we direct them to the local IP attorneys who can guide and assist with any additinal searching and filing.
    On a positive note there has been a definite increase in the awareness of the need for protection and utilisation of IP with the business community in NI.

  5. IP in NI is a closed shop. The phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know" couldn't be more apt, and applies strongly to govt funded bodies. I'm not sure why NI is considered a 'deprived community' either, but that's another political closed door. To be honest, for NI to progress into a self-sustaining economy the closed shops need obliterating and business needs to be weaned off its reliance on quangos.

  6. Hi Anonymous,
    'IP in NI is a closed shop' - is an interestinging statement, could you expand on what you mean by that?

  7. Post lost in post? Slow to update? Or censorship of challenging opinions?