two roles are to provide practical support to UK companies,
particularly SMEs, entering new markets, and to work with host
nation governments on improvements to laws and enforcement.
France and the United States have similar networks of
Speaking at an event hosted by IPAN at CIPA last month
(right), the UK attachés noted that they have worked
with 233 individual companies, who have IP rights estimated at
£377 million ($600 million).
They also spoke about some of the specific issues they have
been working on. So what, I wondered is the single biggest
challenge for UK rights owners in these markets? Is it
counterfeiting? Copyright piracy? Problems with patentability?
Cybersquatting? Compulsory licensing? The expense and time of
litigation? The difficulty of finding local lawyers?
It turns out it’s more mundane. About 40% of
the issues the attaches work on concern trade marks. And based
on their presentations and from speaking to them afterwards, it
seems like the single biggest headache is
bad faith applications. As the UK attaché in Beijing
Tom Duke said, one of the main unanswered questions about the
China’s Trade Mark Law is: "How will they deal
with the systemic problem of bad faith applications?"
Some of these experiences might be unique to British
institutions – both Buckingham Palace and the Royal
Mint have had to take action in India – but others are
typical for owners of well-known brands. One example given
(also from India) was the Wait Rose supermarket set up in
Chennai - the two words separated by a picture of a
rose (see photo).
In some ways it seems ridiculous that more than 130 years
after the Paris Convention was signed, and despite the
popularity of systems such as the Madrid Protocol, trade mark
owners are bedevilled by chancers exploiting their hard-earned
goodwill to confuse consumers.
On the other hand, perhaps it’s an unavoidable
effect of the flattening of the
world. Some people might also say trade mark owners only
have themselves to blame if they don’t take steps
to register their rights promptly.
We’d be interested to know what readers think.
Are bad faith applications a nuisance, or something worse? And
can anything realistically be done to tackle them?
For more information on the UK IP attachés, read the
independent report on their work so far.