Monday 29 September 2014

Be Prepared for the UK IPO website migration

On the 6th October the UK Intellectual Property Office is scheduled to fall into line with other government
The original result of searching IP on
departments and feature only on The URL will be no more and instead we will be headed to That link will already work for you today. More information on the staggering transition is currently to be found at but it might move

As trademark specialists we cannot complain about this consistent branding which guarantees authentic origin to the consumer by placing the in pride of place. Lets hope that the consumer is savvy enough to appreciate this. It should reduce the risk of them being deceived by other on line UK patent and trademark  renewal and trade mark filing services which charge a premium for their "services".

There is a video tour of the website on YOUTUBE.

If you prefer to be introduced to the new website personally, then there is an event on Thursday 2 October at 88 Kingsway, London WC2B 6AA on Thursday 2 October. Sessions will run at 10am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3pm. To register your interest, please email stating your preferred session time.

Hopefully, all will go well and we won't find ourselves locked out because the data scrapers believe that there is new information to be scraped (I suspect there is no change in the underlying databases).

They promise that they have tried to preserve the links that we may have already stored and I am hoping that is true because I do have a lot of links to the on line registers and it would be a ball if they were all broken but with our experience of the OHIM transition we know that even such a disaster can be accommodated.

In desperation, I sometimes had to resort to searching the whole IPO database to find some piece of information I needed. Fortunately this is still possible as they kindly show at 2:21 into the e video as you can limit your results to a particular department and who knows something interesting may have popped up when you searched the whole of

For those of us who cannot cope we can live in the National Archives

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Open Art

One of the most inspirational comments I noted from the pronouncements of the UK's newest intellectual property minister, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe in an early interview was this:
"I want an idea protected, but I want its light to inspire others. "
 The difficulty is defining the line between inspiration and copying and how far an artist or craftsman should restrict access to their ideas. To some extent this is the prerogative of the craftsman. If you keep your art secret then no-one will be inspired.

Walking along a Montreal Street the other day, I encoutered a notice in the window of one gift shop.
"Out of respect for the artisan's copyright, photography is forbidden"
Now inside there would have been contractual consideration for forbidding photography, but this was a display visible to me as a passer by. Out of respect I choose voluntarily not to let you be inspired by the techniques displayed for combining yarn and pottery by showing you a snap. For more thoughts on incidental art photography see Sally's musings here.

My original selection of bands and bloops in the Quadzilla design
Sometimes inspiration is what makes a product fly. RAINBOW LOOM from Choon's Design LLC has inspired both me and hoardes of 8 year old girls to enjoy the creative delights of making and sharing bracelets made out of plastic bands. These would not have taken off, but for the ability to photograph and share instructional videos. Choon's made some but now many more addicts have created and shared their own designs. These often come with dire warnings such as
"Copyright © TutorialsByA, 2014. Please do not copy, remake, or redistribute this tutorial or design."
This is presumably to protect the income YOUTUBE  voluntarily offers them for making a popular video. Others impose no restrictions and are happy to share and delight in the copies and adaptations made by their fans on their facebook pages. The latter help to propagate the principles that addicts need to explore the possibilities of this toy. So how does the law protect the natural teachers who are happy simply to see their videos watched and their ideas propagated from the fulminations of the protectionist designers who seek profit from their work? An artist or craftsman should surely have the freedom to choose whether he teaches or not. However the battle lines can be drawn when a natural teacher is inspired by the work of a protectionist artist. In this area copyright can become a nightmare, even if we have discerning judges in accessible courts as we do in the UK, the damage can be done in social media harassment that creates untold distress and may even cause an artist to shut up shop.

Do we as lawyers have a duty to rein back the overly enthusiastic user of copyright to allow the light of inspiration to shine through and do we need to use the social media, or only those accessible courts for the purpose?

Sunday 14 September 2014

#AIPPI2014 Canada joins the 21st Century

I am writing this at an airport boarding gate on my way to Toronto for the AIPPI conference. I am mainly thinking trade mark issues as I contributed to the UK response on Madrid system central attack Question 239. You can find all the national Group reports here.

Although Canada is hosting the conference it is one of the few territories that does not use WIPO's Nice Classification or belong to the Madrid Protocol,  but it seems that is all set to change now that the Canadian government has passed its Budget Implementation Act which included the necessary amendments to Canadan law to allow Canada to join Nice, Madrid and the Singapore Trade Mark Treaty. The changes do not include abolition of relative grounds examination or the three year use period. So it's not surprising that the Canadian group support the basic mark requirement in Madrid, but like the idea that dependency should shrink to three rather than five years.

With a five year dependency, late starting Canadian businesses would otherwise have a greater vulnerability to central attacks on their International registrations, than their counterparts in European countries, for example, that require five years to pass before their national marks can be challenged for non-use.  It would be interesting to know how many central attacks have been made on non- use in territories where this could happen now. I can only think of China. Their group report does suggest it may be a concern as they note:
The Madrid filing might focus on worldwide use instead of national use, then non-
use cancellation against basic registration may bring risk of central attack, which
woud be unreasonable to the trademark registrant.
The UK Group also discussed that a three year dependency would be sufficient.

One interesting aspect of many reports s that central attack is little used. This seems odd as in my practice, which is necessarily modest I see several cases a year where it is under consideration. It would be useful if central attackss were required to be notified to WIPO while they are in progress rather than just when they succeed.

I hope I will b able to discuss these and other issues with fellow travelers when you arrive in Toronto

Sunday 7 September 2014

Grace Periods for Patent Applicants

Safety net by Andrew Skudder 
We have been here before, last year when AIPPI decided to support the idea and more recently when the UK IPO held a round table on the subject on 1 July 2014.  Now the UK IPO is trying to decide which scenario to support and their relative desirability.

We are offered various definitions of a grace period.

A. “All disclosures” grace period: A grace period of 12 months calculated from the filing date, applying to all disclosures, with no mandatory declaration required and prior user rights not applying throughout the grace period.

B. “Non-safety net” grace period: A grace period of 12 months calculated from the priority date (if applicable), applying only to disclosures made by (or derived from) the applicant, with no mandatory declaration required and prior user rights not applying throughout the grace period.

C. 6-month “safety net”: A grace period of 6 months calculated from the priority date (if applicable), applying only to disclosures made by (or derived from) the applicant, with mandatory declaration required and prior user rights applying throughout the grace period.

D. 12-month “safety net”: As above but with a duration of 12 months.

E. 12-month “safety net” with no declaration: As above but with no mandatory declaration required.

What makes it a safety net grace period is the business of prior user rights. While I have used the safety net idea hitherto as a reference to the safety net that a grace period provides for the patentee not the the third party user (sorry about the confusion).

Prior users might be those who have derived their information from the inventor. There is already protection in the UK in section 64 of the Patents Act for good faith prior users, so, I suppose we are saying if at the time you saw something and thought great idea and started to implement it and managed to do so before the inventor got to the Patent Office were you acting in good faith? Now at present when we see a good idea we may not know its in the patent process. Is it any different if we have a grace period? I think not. Lets not mess with prior user rights. Clearly they are needed though if other countries don't have them and we are playing for harmonisation across the IP5

Personally I am totally against declarations. They require full disclosure to the attorney and a burden of enquiry. They suppose there is certainty about whether a particular disclosure is confidential or not. If I speak to a novice inventor, they may tell me about various soundings they have made. Typically these would be with trusted confidantes. Sometimes there is a written NDA but not always. Even for the large IPO customer, completing disclosures is going to be hard for the Patent Department, so let's eliminate them. Who will advocate for them - the prior user not in terribly good faith perhaps. A patentee may want to make a disclosure to emphasise that something is not prior art. I would write that into the specification and it could be considered good practice and I rather like the idea. However voluntary declarations are a very different proposition than a mandatory one. I bet our insurers will advocate against any costly mandatory traps.

I think that means I support E - What do you think?

CIPA will no doubt be making representations. If you are lucky enough to have your August CIPA journal you will have the secret diary. Representatives of larger organisations seem to be against grace altogether as it encourages indiscipline among their already spirited inventors. They also cite desire for certainty - but even with first to file there is no certainty when we delay publication as realistically we must.

If we are looking to promote innovation and more specifically the implementation of innovation then the grace period  benefits the eager innovator and some of those eager innovators are the ones who are best for the economy.

Do comment. The IPO also want your help, preferably before Wednesday.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

So whose non-law job are you supporting?

This blogger's attention was riveted by a media release from the Law Society for England and Wales, which reads in relevant part:
"Every 100 legal services jobs support 67 more in the wider economy

In his first speech [which you can read in full here] as Law Society deputy vice-president, Robert Bourns told an audience of City lawyers, financial services firms and think-tanks that for every 100 jobs in the legal services sector, 67 are supported in other areas of the economy.
Robert Bourns also told delegates that:
· Every £1 of output of the UK legal services sector underpins £2.39 of output in the UK economy as a whole.

· Growth in the UK legal services sector is expected to increase to near pre-recession levels in 2015. ..."
Carrying an extra burden:
some folk just grin
and bear it
The SOLO IP blog has 258 email subscribers.  Assuming that just 50 of them are practising IP as solicitors in England and Wales [having made appropriate deductions from the 258 in respect of patent and trade mark attorneys, practitioners from other jurisdictions, IP administrators, students and people who have signed up to read this blog under a misapprehension that it's to with something completely different], this rather suggests that, while they struggle to earn their humble crust and then extract it from their clients, they are actually paying the wages, national insurance contributions and other outgoings for 33.5 others.

Apart from accountants, book-keepers, sellers of replacement printer cartridges and Starbucks baristas, what callings might these fortunate by-products of even solo IP practice have?  Suggestions, anyone?