Friday 6 July 2012

Holy grail or poison chalice? IP and legal services in Wales

One of my most frequent tasks as an editor is to correct terms such as "English Court of Appeal" and "UK Patents County Court". In each case the correct term for the jurisdiction is England and Wales.  The relationship between the two is sometimes similar to that of Switzerland and Liechtenstein -- the larger jurisdiction is dominant, but that does not mean that the smaller is in any sense insignificant.

Why are these reflections of interest to an IP blog? The answer lies in a recent Press Association news release, reproduced in relevant part below:
"The creation of a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales would be a major economic boost for the principality, Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas has said. The prospect of Wales having its own legal system could be on the cards following a government consultation.

Although no firm decision has been made, officials say the issue needs to be examined due to increasing differences between the law in England and in Wales following the onset of devolution.

The Welsh Assembly has powers in 20 devolved areas and since last year the institution gained primary law-making powers. However, even if laws passed by the Assembly only apply to Wales, they are still part of the law of England and Wales. ...

Mid and West Wales AM Mr Thomas [said].
"As distinct laws in England and Wales are created, it is inevitable distinct legal jurisdictions will be created eventually. "The question we have to ask now is whether we want to grasp the nettle and proactively work towards the goal of a distinct legal jurisdiction, or do we want to just leave it to evolve in an ad hoc and uncontrolled way? The creation of a distinct legal jurisdiction could be a real economic driver for Wales. Not just the fact that power will be closer to the people, but that the supply of skilled jobs in the legal profession will increase. It would mean more opportunities to keep our talented young graduates in Wales ...".
Thomas cited the precedent of Northern Ireland, where there is already a distinct legal jurisdiction and a justice system that employs around 16,000 people.

Not many Welsh names have been the subject
of applications for GI protection ...
Members of the IP fraternity will be aware that, while Northern Ireland and indeed the larger jurisdiction of Scotland, have their own legal systems, they share their IP statute law with England -- and that is where the vast majority of IP work, both contentious and non-contentious, is handled.

What might be the effect of dismantling of the current jurisdiction of England and Wales? Will it provide exciting new opportunities for small local IP practices to spring up in the hillsides -- or will it create small practices in a more painful manner, by causing more clients to prefer the tried and tested English system to a new, unfamiliar one and reducing some of the Principality's larger IP practices to small ones?

1 comment:

  1. I do wish politiicians would stick to what they know best claiming for second homes and duck houses.

    As an asside to this you may ask what happens if Scotland separates from the rest of the UK. What is the status of Wales in the UK? I would argue that Wales is already a separate kingdom. The act of union between Scotalnd and England was just that . It makes no mention of the Kingdom of Wales. The Kingdom of Wales was recognised in the act of 1534 (I think). That act is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the act of Union for Wales and England. It is not. It is an act that recognises that there is a kingdon of England and a Kingdom of Wales. By virtue of the act, the ruler of the Kingdom of England became the ruler of the Kingdom of Wales. However, the two states were not combined. So if I understand the latest moves of Alex Salmond which appear to be to split from the UK but to keep Her Majesty, Scotland will at last achieve the status that Wales already enjoys.

    I wonder also if it is time to address the Union flag. When the elements represent the Saltire are deleted may we re-introduce our rather stirring dragon to re-join the cross of St George to represent once again that there are two Kingdoms in this marriage.

    By the way , it is also the English and Wales cricket board so the team should be referred to as such. Thankfully dwarfs will be relieved that there are no such problems that arise with Rugby Union