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MARQUES in Monte Carlo: a five-minute update

James Nurton

It’s not all drinking and gambling at the MARQUES conference in Monte Carlo. Here are five tidbits from today’s meetings, where some 760 professionals from 70 countries are discussing trade mark issues

Are cities brands?

A bonus speaker this morning was the CEO of Monaco Brands, which owns some 93 national and 18 international trade mark registrations for marks such as Monaco and Monte Carlo. As well as defending the marks against unauthorised use, Monaco Brands licenses them for products such as Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo, Radio Monte Carlo and Les Perles de Monte Carlo. Coincidentally, London Mayor Boris Johnson was today reported as calling his city the UK’s most powerful brand. So are cities brands? And if so does this raise problems about who can use them (events, businesses, sports teams?), what happens where two cities share the same name (think London, Ontario or Paris, Texas) or brands that incorporate city names – DKNY, Edinburgh Woollen Mill or Kathmandu (a New Zealand, not Nepalese, company)?

Rethinking the concept of creator

The keynote speaker today was Karl Pilny, who tackled a wide range of topics including the rise of Asia, the shift to “immaterial assets” and how giant spiders will take over the world following a nuclear holocaust. One avenue I found particularly challenging was his suggestion that the concepts of creator and owner may have to be rethought. He discussed this in the light of artificial intelligence and self-programming software, but the question also comes up in the context of social media, derivative works and fan fiction. Creation and ownership are fundamental to IP, but is it time to start rethinking them?

A new MARQUES website

Whether or not you’re a member, visit the new MARQUES website – unveiled formally today by a champagne-wielding Hanne Weywardt of MAQS Law Firm, and chair of the Communication & Membership Team. As a member of that Team, I can take no credit for the year-long work of refreshing the site, but can testify to the hours that many other people have put in. There are many improvements in both substance and appearance/accessibility, and MARQUES is now also hosting the Class 99 design blog, alongside the existing Class 46 trade mark blog.

The cases that keep on giving

You might think there is little more to say on either Apple v Samsung or IP Translator. You’d be wrong. A session this afternoon revealed new insights on both cases (or, if you prefer, sagas). Particularly thought provoking was barrister Simon Malynicz’s argument that IP Translator effectively makes the substantive law on trade marks (which is supposed to be harmonised in the EU) different, and that the position is crying out for forum shopping. Simon points out that “CTMs don’t exist in a bubble in Alicante” and that OHIM’s interpretation of the CJEU ruling (which some people think is wrong anyway) is not binding on national courts, meaning you could sue on the same facts in different countries and get different results. Result; more, not less, uncertainty.

Michael’s Madrid masterclass

Those of us who resisted the temptations of the pool this afternoon were rewarded with some great advice from Michael Leonard of Fox Rothschild on how to increase your chances of getting Madrid applications registered in the US. Only 4% of Madrid applications are accepted without objection by the USPTO, and Michael did not seem optimistic that number would change soon. But he did have lots of practical advice on using WIPO’s Madrid Goods & Services Manager, making voluntary amendment filings, avoiding problems with entity descriptions and filling in MM18 forms. Clearly some of this is complicated, but it’s good to know there is hope!

Those are just a few tasters of today’s proceedings. Now it’s time to head for the pool bar. We hope to bring you more news from Monte Carlo tomorrow.


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