Intellectual property is key

May I share through your pages some information which is relevant to our forthcoming decision on membership of the European Union.

United Kingdom businesses are the third biggest filers of trade mark applications with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), new stats issued by Eurostat revealed on April 26, which was World Intellectual Property Day, which is probably not widely celebrated outside of my profession, but was established to promote discussion of the role intellectual property plays in encouraging innovation and creativity.

In 2015, the UK filed 12,527 trade marks – which makes up 14 per cent of the total filings with the EUIPO.

In total there were 89,420 applications for trade mark protection received by the EUIPO during the year.

This figure is four times higher than it was in the mid-1990s, and has risen every year with the exception of a slowdown during the economic and financial crisis in 2008.

Germany accounted for 23 per cent of applications, UK 14 per cent, Italy 11 per cent, Spain 11 per cent, France nine per cent, the Netherlands five per cent and Poland four per cent. The stats were issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Further afield the United States accounted for 41 per cent of the filings (16,881) at the EUIPO from the rest of the world, they were followed by China 10 per cent, Switzerland 10 per cent, Japan six per cent and South Korea five per cent.

A substantial number of these applications would have been handled by UK practitioners for language reasons and our generally high professional standards.

European Union trade marks are very important for our clients based here in the UK and abroad as they offer comprehensive protection for the entire EU market with one single registration, and the ability to enforce those registered rights with one action.

International cooperation in intellectual properties (IP) predates the creation of the Common Market, indeed the two world wars (arguably the end to over 1,000 years of war in Europe is the most cogent argument for the European Union) have been cessation between belligerents.

That cooperation would undoubtedly continue if we vote to leave the EU.

However, intellectual properties are a complex and fast moving area of law, driven mainly through the courts.

Whilst we are partners in the EU we are around the table (or in a judicial capacity) contributing to the development of this law – which is important, because we are a common law jurisdiction and need to state our case in the harmonization of EU law.

If we are not partners in these deliberations, we will still find ourselves bound by them, because Europe is our biggest market, and countries like Turkey who want to trade with the EU are constantly tweaking their IP law and practice to meet the ongoing developments of European court decisions.

I should add that I generally have nothing but praise for the British judges who sit in European courts; we have our differences from time to time, but usually on minor points.

A business’s IP is one of its most important assets and we always advise people to consult an intellectual properties professional as early as possible on matters relating to their brands to ensure they are properly protected and enforceable.

Stewart Rayment

Lockhart & Hastings Ltd

IP consultants

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