14 March 2015

Trade Marks for Inventors

Jane Lambert

Inventors are most interested in protecting their inventions for which they require patents but some set up businesses to manufacture or market their inventions. Such businesses need to identify themselves and their products in the market place and for that they need brands. Brands are built up by sales and marketing and the common or judge made law of England and Wales gives a measure of protection for established brands by the law of passing off, But if you are new to the market or are about to launch a new product or service you can't rely on that law. You need to register a trade mark first.

What are trade marks?
S.1 (1) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 defines a trade mark as
"any sign capable of being represented graphically which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings."
The following paragraph helpfully adds:
"A trade mark may, in particular, consist of words (including personal names), designs, letters, numerals or the shape of goods or their packaging."
The Trade Marks Act 1994 applies only to the United Kingdom but our trade marks law has been harmonized for over 20 years with the laws of the rest of the European Union by an EU Directive and a string of decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union. As all the EU member states are members of the World Trade Organization EU trade mark law and the trade mark laws of each of its member states have to comply with Annex 1C to the World Trade Organization Agreement which is better known as TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). Art 15 (1) of TRIPS contains a definition that is very similar to s.1 (1) of our Trade Marks Act 1994.

A word on spelling
You will have noted that trade mark is spelt as two words in our statute but as one word in the TRIPs. Both spellings are correct but we tend to use the two word spelling in the UK, the EU and most of the Commonwealth whereas Americans use one word. As I am British I shall stick to spelling it as two words but you may find your spell check prefers the American spelling.

Specified goods
Trade marks are registered for goods or services and when you apply for a trade mark you have to specify the goods or services to which it is to apply.

It is still sometimes possible for two different trade mark owners to register the same sign for different goods. We were once familiar with Mazda card and Mazda light bulbs. But that has become more difficult since s.5 (3) of the Trade Marks Act 1994 now provides that a trade mark shall not be registered if it is
"identical with or similar to an earlier trade mark, shall not be registered if, or to the extent that, the earlier trade mark has a reputation in the United Kingdom (or, in the case of a Community trade mark or international trade mark (EC) in the European Community) and the use of the later mark without due cause would take unfair advantage of, or be detrimental to, the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier trade mark."
Goods and services are divided into a number of classes by an international agreement called the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks or Nice Agreement for short.  Our Intellectual Property Office has very helpfully published Guidance Trade mark classification list of goods and services 2 May 2014 which you can consult on its website.

When you apply to register a trade mark you have to state the class or classes of goods and services for which you wish the mark to be registered. You should bear in mind that one class of goods or services is included in your application fee and that you have to pay extra for each additional class of goods or services.

What is the point of a trade mark?
The rights conferred by the registration of a trade mark are set out most succinctly in art 16 (1) of TRIPS:
"The owner of a registered trademark shall have the exclusive right to prevent all third parties not having the owner’s consent from using in the course of trade identical or similar signs for goods or services which are identical or similar to those in respect of which the trademark is registered where such use would result in a likelihood of confusion. In case of the use of an identical sign for identical goods or services, a likelihood of confusion shall be presumed"
That is echoed by s.9 (1) of our Trade Marks Act 1994:
"The proprietor of a registered trade mark has exclusive rights in the trade mark which are infringed by use of the trade mark in the United Kingdom without his consent."
The acts that constitute infringement are set out at some length in the first three sub-sections of s.10 of the 1994 Act.

UK and Community Trade Marks
Applicants for trade marks in the UK has the choice of registering a trade mark for the UK alone or for the whole of the EU. Trade marks for the whole EU are known as "Community trade marks" or "CTM" and I shall refer to them as CTM for the rest of this article.

If you want a trade mark for the UK alone you apply to the Intellectual Property Office or "IPO" in Newport. The department that looks after trade marks is known as the Trade Marks Registry which us usually referred to as "the Registry".  Confusingly the head of the IPO is called "the Comptroller" in relation to patents and unregistered design rights but "the Registrar" in relation to trade marks and registered designs, However, he or she is the same person.

If you want a CTM you have to apply to the curiously named Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market Trade Marks and Designs ("OHIM") in Alicante in Spain. Applications for CTM are governed by the CTM Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the Community trade mark OJ 24.3.2009 L78/1) but its provisions are very similar to those of the Directive and hence our Trade Marks Act 1994.

Guidance on applying for trade marks
The IPO contains a useful step by step guide to registering a UK trade mark that begins with the section "Trade marks: protect your brand". The next sections are "What you can and can't register", "Apply" and "After you apply". Most of the information in those pages would also be of use if you are applying for a CTM or a trade mark in any other country's trade marks registry.

If you want a CTM, OHIM also gives you some useful information. I recommend starting at the Trade Marks Basics page and working your way from there. There is an amusing little animated video called "It's all about trade marks" which you shouldn't miss.

There is also useful stuff on the British Library's Business and IP and World Intellectual Property Office websites and there is lots more from law firms, patent offices, trade mark and patent agencies and universities around the world but for now I would be content with the publications that the IPO and OHIM put out otherwise you will never get started.

Should you get professional advice?
It is perfectly possible for a reasonably well educated and intelligent individual to apply for a UK trade mark or CTM without the assistance of a trade mark or patent attorney or lawyer and many business owners do just that but unless you have a lot of experience of IP and trade marks you can easily come unstuck if you try to do it yourself. For instance, you may miss something on a search, you may fill out the form incorrectly, you may apply for a mark that can't be registered or a third party may oppose your mark after it has been advertised if he thinks that you are unrepresented in circumstances that he wouldn't try if he knew you were professionally represented. The cheapest you can register a UK mark is £170 if you make the application on-line and there are many attorneys who will do all the searches, draft the application, pay the Registry fees for £500 or less. To me that seems a no-brainer.

If you don't have an attorney and you would like me to suggest one, call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours or message me through my contact form.

On-line or paper
Both the IPO and OHIM encourage on-line applications by offering slight discounts for on-line applications.

Regardless of whether you apply for a UK mark or a CTM it is imperative that you carry out a thorough search for you will probably not be allowed to register a mark that is the same or similar to an existing one for the same or similar goods or services. Even if your application does somehow slip through the owner of the earlier mark can apply to invalidate it on the grounds that it should never have been registered.

You can search the IPO or OHIM databases yourself (see Search for a Trade Mark on the IPO website and eSearch plus on OHIM's) but you will get a better result if you instruct an attorney for he or she knows what to look for. You can also get a good search from Leeds Business and IP Centre if you call Ged or Steff on 0113 247 8266.

Making the application
As there is excellent information from the IPO and OHIM on trade mark applications I am not going to repeat it here.

If you are doing it yourself and encounter a problem you can contact me on 020 7404 5252 or use my contact form. In most cases my advice will be go find an attorney and I will tell you how to get one but there may be a point of law which requires professional advice in which case I will see you in conference or advise you in writing (see "What happens if the examiner says no?" below).

IP insurance
Another thing you should consider when you apply for a trade mark is enforcement. Although some trade mark infringements are crimes which can be prosecuted by trading standards officers in the magistrates or Crown Court it is generally down to you to enforce your trade mark. You do that by issuing proceedings in the civil courts. Though you can't start proceedings until your mark has been registered your rights and hence your claim to damages can be backdated to the date of application. IP litigation in the UK has always been more expensive than on the Continent and the costs of issuing proceedings for claims over £10,000 have recently sky rocketed (see How to enforce your IP claim after court fees sky rocket 7 March 2015). Unless you have lots of money I would advise your taking out before-the-event IP insurance at the earliest possible opportunity (see Intellectual Property Litigation - the Funding Options 10 April 2013 NIPC Law) which is when in the case of trade marks is when you make your application.

What if the examiner says no?
Here's where I come in. Any decision of the hearing officer can be appealed but appeals are be expensive and you will want to make sure that you are on firm ground. You could ask your trade mark or patent attorney or your solicitor but at the end of the day they may well suggest your taking counsel's opinion. "Counsel" is another word for barrister or someone like me and if you want to know what IP barristers such as I can offer read my article IP Services from Barristers 6 April 2013 4-5 IP). I will advise you on your options and if you decide to appeal I will represent you all for a fixed fee that will be agreed in advance. Again, if you want to consult me call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours or message me through my contact form.

In the IPO appeals from examiners are made to an official known  as a hearing officer who sits on behalf of the Registrar. The IPO has published two useful articles on Options following an objection to a trade mark examination and Trade mark disputes resolution: hearings which I advise you to read.

Appeals in OHIM are made to Boards of Appeal and the procedure is set out in the Appeal page.

What if someone else says no?
if the examiner finds no objection  to your application it will be advertised on the web and elsewhere. If anyone objects to your application he or she may get a trade mark or patent attorney to write to you to explain the objection and ask you to withdraw your application.  Again, this is where I could come in either at your request or the request of your attorneys or lawyers. I can advise you whether the objection is justified and if it is not represent you in opposition proceedings again for an agreed fee.

There are basically two grounds upon which an opponent can object to your application. The first is that he or she has an earlier trade mark with which your mark conflicts. The second is that he or she could bring an action for passing off, copyright infringement or some other cause of action that would prevent your using your mark.

Appeals in the IPO are heard by hearing officers and appeals in OHIM by Boards of Appeal, Much of what I have written under the previous heading applies to opposition proceedings.

If nobody objects to your application or if all objections are resolved in your favour your application will proceed to grant and you will receive a certificate of registration and your mark will be entered on the register.  However, that is not necessarily the end of the story because it is still open to a third party to apply for invalidation of your mark on the ground that it should never have been granted. You also have to make sure that you use your mark within 5 years of registration otherwise someone may seek its revocation for non-use. Invalidity proceedings can be made in the Trade Marks Registry or as the case may be OHIM or by way of counterclaim in any proceedings you may bring for infringement of its mark.

Watch service
You need to make sure that another business does not apply to register the same or similar mark for the same or similar goods. As it is impractical for most businesses to scour the intellectual property offices or trade mark journals it is a good idea to instruct someone to do that for you. That is known as a "watch service". Your attorney ought to be able to arrange that for you but if not call Ged or Steff at Leeds Business and IP Centre on 0113 247 8266.

If you want to discuss this article or trade marks generally call me on 020 7404 5252 or use my contact form.

07 March 2015

How to enforce your IP claim after court fees sky rocket

Saturn V rocket - the biggest rocket ever to fly
Photo Wikipedia

A patent or other intellectual property rights is essentially a right to bring a law suit. With a few limited exceptions it is not a crime to infringe an intellectual property right. Patentees and other intellectual property rights holders have to enforce their rights have to enforce their rights themselves which generally means bringing proceedings in the civil courts.

1.  Court Fees are about to Sky Rocket

Unfortunately, the costs of issuing proceedings in the civil courts of England and Wales are about to soar through the roof. Art 2 of The Civil Proceedings and Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2015 which is currently before Parliament requires those claiming more than £10,000 in damages or other monetary relief to pay 5% of the value of the claim up to a cap of £10,000.  At present, the most that anyone has to pay for issuing a claim is £1,920. That will increase to £10,000 after the Order is made - a whopping £8,080 or 421%. It is even worse for those with modest claims. Those seeking damages of £190,000 will have to pay £9,500 an increase of £8,185 or 622%.

The peers including the law lords have protested at these new fees as have the senior judges and lawyers (see Senior judges attack government's planned court cost rise 4 March 2014 BBC and Wednesday in Westminster 4 March 2015) but governments tend to get their way and the draft order will go through. So what should inventors and other small businesses do now?

2. Limit Damages Claim to £10,000

The issue fees for claims under £10,000 remains unchanged. They increased quite a bit last year but they will not be going up this time. If your claim for damages is between £5,000 and £10,000 the issue fee will still be £455. Limiting claims to £10,000 is not nearly as bad as it sounds because the principal relief that an intellectual property owner wants is an injunction - that is to say, an order of the court to do or refrain from doing something on pain of a fine or imprisonment for disobedience. Inquires as to damages and accounts of profits are very rare in IP litigation. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of cases in which I have been instructed that have actually gone all the way to a full blown inquiry.

Happily there is now a court for small intellectual property claims, namely the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (formerly the Patents County Court) small claims track. The judges of that court will hear claims for all types of IP cases except those involving patents, registered designs, registered Community designs, semiconductor topographies and plant breeders' rights where the damages or other pecuniary relief is £10,000 or less. I have written a lot about that tribunal, given a lot of presentations and even argued a case before it. You will find links to those articles at Patents County Court - the New Small Claims Track Rules 20 Sept 2012 NIPC Law. The great advantage of the small claims track is that the procedure is very simple. There is usually only one hearing which lasts less than half a day and the judge can award an injunction and damages at the same sitting. Something that can't be done in any other court. The risk as to costs is limited to a few hundred pounds though by the same token you can's recover more than a few hundred pounds if you are successful.

Even if your claim is in relation to patents, registered or registered Community designs, semiconductor topographies or plant breeders' rights you can still limit your damages claim to £10,000. Your case will be allocated to the multitrack which means that your liability for costs will increase but you will still only be charged £455 for issuing proceedings and recoverable costs in the multitrack are limited to £50,000.

3.   Bring your Case in the Intellectual Property Office

The hearing officers of the Intellectual Property Office have extensive jurisdiction in patents, trade marks, registered designs and unregistered design rights disputes and recoverable costs in proceedings before hearing officers are limited in most cases to a fixed scale (see Tribunal Practice Notice 2/2000 Costs In Proceedings Before The Comptroller).

In patents, for instance, hearing officers can decide who is entitled to a patent or to be named as an inventor, they can amend or revoke a patent, they can declare that a patent has not been infringed and they can decide compulsory licensing and licence of rights disputes. They can even hear infringement claims with the consent of the parties under s.61 (3) of the Patents Act 1977 though that has rarely if ever happened, possibly because hearing officers cannot grant injunctions.

In trade mark disputes hearing officers can revoke or declare trade mark applications invalid.

In designs hearing officers can cancel design registrations and determine the conditions for licences of right.

Appeals from decisions of hearing officers in trade mark disputes can be made to an Appointed Person rather than the court who will generally award costs on the same scale as hearing officers.   S.10 of the Intellectual Property Act 2014 makes similar provisions in respect of designs.

4.   Seek an Examiner's Opinion

For the last 10 years Intellectual Property Office examiners have delivered non-binding opinions as to whether a British or European patent is valid and whether it has been infringed.  This has proved very popular and their jurisdiction has recently been extended to other patent disputes and will shortly extend to designs. The cost of an examiner's opinion remains at £200.  In some cases an authoritative opinion is all that is needed to resolve a dispute. In cases where the losing party refuses to back down a favourable opinion should make it easier to get after-the-event insurance or litigation funding.

5.  Use established Arbitration or other Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes where they exist

Probably the best known schemes are the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy for generic top level domain name disputes and Nominet's Dispute Resolution Service for domain name disputes in the .uk top level domain name space. For a few hundred pounds trade mark owners can obtain an order for the transfer of a domain name in less time than it takes to exchange statements of case in many intellectual property disputes. Costs are irrecoverable but then you don't usually get all your costs back on a detailed or summary assessment anyway.

6.  Insert Dispute Resolution Clauses into your Licences and other Agreements

If you don't want to go to court to resolve a dispute with your licensee, joint venturer or other associate you can insert provisions for mediation, expert determination or arbitration into your licences or other agreements.

7.  Take out Before-the-Event Insurance

Although the 622% and 421% increases that I mentioned above are enormous, they are not a large part of the total cost of litigation and should not increase before-the-event insurance premiums greatly. There are some good IP packages on the market, particularly the IP Insured package which Sybaris IP offers to ACID members.

8.  On the Horizon

The British government has signed an agreement to establish a Unified Patent Court with exclusive jurisdiction to determine disputes over European patents and passed enabling legislation to implement the agreement. Art 71 of that agreement restored legal aid for inventors which was taken away from them by paragraph 1 (h) of Schedule 2 to the Access to Justice Act 1999. The Court will consist of a Court of Appeal in Luxembourg and a Court of First Instance with a central division based in Paris with a section in London. The Court will have its own rules and charge its own fees. So long as this country remains in the EU it is the best news for private inventors for 20 years.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or IP law in general, he or she should call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal office hours or message me through my contact form.

29 January 2015

PatLib Libraries in the UK

Manchester Central Library
Photo Wikipedia
Yesterday the Intellectual Property Office published an updated guide to PatLib (patent library) centres in the United Kingdom. These libraries are part of a European network of over 320 patent information centres that provide information on patents and other intellectual property rights to the public.

There are now 15 PatLib libraries in this country, the latest being Hull and Northamptonshire Central Libraries. The others are at Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool. Llandudno Junction, London. Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Sheffield.

As well as offering access to Espacenet and other on-line databases, many libraries offer other services such as searches, patent clinics, watch services, workshops and seminars and inventors clubs. The services offered by each British library are listed in the guide.

The Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield central libraries are linked to the British Library in a national network of Business and IP Centres. This network is sponsored by the Arts Council of England, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Intellectual Property Office. Last week I attended the opening of Sheffield Business and IP Centre and wrote about it in Sheffield Business and IP Centre Launch 24 Jan 2015 IP Yorkshire.

Inventors, entrepreneurs, business owners and others who are not close to a Business and IP Centre or a PatLib library can nevertheless benefit by subscribing to the British Library's Business and IP newsletter and joining its Linkedin and Facebook groups.

Further Reading

29 Jan 2015 Northamptonshire Central Library joins the PatLib Network IP East Midlands
24 Jan 2015 Sheffield Business and IP Centre Launch IP Yorks
17 Jan 2014 Alternatives to Invention Promotion Companies
2 Jan 2015  Putting IP at the Heart of Your Business Plan   4-5 IP
2 Sept 2014 Sheffield Inventors Welcome Joyce Gray  IP Yorks
15 Aug 2014 Sheffield Business and IP Centre IP East Midlands
18 Oct 2013 Where to get free basic Information on Intellectual Property IP South East
14 Oct 2013 Business and IP Centre National Network IP Yorks
21 July 2013  Finding the Right IP Advice IP North West
10 July 2013 Practising the Dark Arts in Leeds and Sheffield - roll up to be enlightened IP Yorks
6 Mar 2013 Enterprise and Libraries: a New National Network of Business & IP Support
5 Oct 2012 Organizations that Inventors in Manchester should know about IP North West
21 Jan 2012 BIPC Newcastle
15 Aug 2011 Inventors Resources in Northern Ireland
2 Apr 2011 Resources for Inventors in South East England
21 Mar 2011 Business Support Update
23 Jan 2011 Resources for Inventors in Yorkshire and the Humber
5 Dec 2010 Resources for Inventors in North West England
26 Oct 2010 Resources for Inventors in North East England
21 Oct 2010 Local Enterprise Partnerships begin to take Shape
2 Mar 2006 Liverpool Inventors Club
15 Jan 2006 New Leeds PatLib Library Website

12 January 2015

Alternatives to Invention Promotion Companies

The other day I was asked for my opinion on an invention promotion company. It was not one that I had ever dealt with so I could not answer the enquiry directly but I referred the inventor to the advice that the US Patent and Trademark Office and our own Intellectual Property Office had given on invention promotion companies generally. 

The inventor thanked me for my reply and added:
"My family and friends have given me very positive feedback on my invention but how else do I check if my invention is good ?
What should I do next ?
Where can I find trustworthy contacts ?"
I replied:
"First do some market research. You can get some help with that at the Business and IP Centre of the British Library.
Next you should decide whether to exploit your invention directly by setting up in business to produce and sell it or licensing it out to someone else.
If you decide to license it out you will need to show your licensee how it will make money from the invention which means that you have to do much the same work as you would if you were making and selling it yourself. If you do get it out you will get a licence fee which will typically be a small percentage of the sale price.
I can advise you on the legal issues but not on the financial ones.
I wish you all the best with your invention."
The British Library and its associated libraries in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield have massive resources on market research, business planning and everything else an inventor would need to know to set up in business. If he or she is not clear how to use those resources there are courses from the library staff and its partners.

I also advise the inventor to join an inventors' club if one is nearby. There he or she will meet product development consultants, patent attorneys, business advisers and other professionals who assist individual inventors and, most importantly, other inventors who can share their experience with him or her. I have listed some of the inventors clubs that I know about in the side panel to this blog. The Wessex Round Table of Inventors has a much longer list. I am sure that there will be lots of trustworthy and knowledgeable contacts at any of those associations.

In my email I made clear that I am a lawyer and not a business adviser. Here are some of the things I can do for inventors.

1. Tailoring a non-disclosure agreement to the inventor's needs or reviewing or advising the inventor on somebody else's.
2. Advising the inventor on the optimum intellectual property protection for his or her invention and if that includes patents helping him or her find and instruct patent attorneys in this country and abroad who can apply for them.  As I do not prosecute patent, design or trade mark applications I have no interest in selling the inventor a service though I must stress that every patent attorney I know would try to advise objectively too.
3. Representing the inventor at a hearing in the Intellectual Property Office if the examiner challenges his or her application.
4, Helping the inventor negotiate and draft agreements with collaborators, investors and consultants.
5. Drawing up terms and conditions, manufacturing and distribution agreements if the inventor wishes to make and sell the invention him or herself or licences if he or she doesn't and just about any other agreement the inventor may need.
6. Helping to keep the inventor out of trouble with third parties and resolving difficulties if any arise.

There was a time when barristers could be approached only through solicitors or patent or trade mark attorneys but that rule changed over 10 years ago, Now we can do more or less anything that a solicitor can do and as we don't have offices to maintain our services are often cheaper. You can find out more about instructing us in IP Services from Barristers 6 Apr 2013.

Should anyone wish to discuss this article, invention promotion companies or help to inventors in general they should contact me through my message form or call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours.

08 January 2015

Digital Business Academy

The Digital Business Academy is a collaboration between TechCity UK, Cambridge University Business School, Founder Centric and University College London to provide students with the skills they need to start, run, or join a digital business. There are 8 courses which are delivered online and through which students can work at their own pace.

Those courses are as follows:
  • Size up your idea – UCL
  • Turn your idea into a digital business – UCL
  • Develop and manage a digital product – Founder Centric
  • Make a marketing plan – Cambridge University Judge Business School
  • Build the brand – Cambridge University Judge Business School
  • Understand digital marketing channels – Founder Centric
  • Run a digital marketing campaign – Founder Centric
  • Master finance for your business – Cambridge University Judge Business School.
I signed up for the programme and have already completed the first part of the first course. Teaching is delivered by short videos and articles. There is also a networking forum. I shall let you know how I get on.

02 January 2015

Congratulations to Trevor Baylis CBE

Trevor Baylis
Photo Wikipedia

I should like to congratulate Trevor Baylis on his CBE for intellectual property.

I met Mr Baylis when I chaired the Brass from Gumption open day in Huddersfield on the 18 Feb 2004. This was a full day of seminars, exhibitions, patent searches, patent clinics and a simulated “Baylis Breakout” by the man himself. It was a great success which led to my setting up inventors' clubs at Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield and regular intellectual property clinics throughout the North,

I have not seen eye to eye with him on every issue but I share his objective of helping individual inventors to realize their ambitions. I wish him every success in those endeavours.

22 November 2014

Top 10 Tips for Resolving IP Disputes

1. Be careful what you say and do.
If you threaten to sue someone for patent infringement you can be sued yourself under s.70 of the Patents Act 1977 unless you can justify those threats. You can be injuncted (ordered to refrain from making those threats on pain of imprisonment or fine for disobedience) and made to pay substantial damages and costs. So leave the accusations to your lawyers or patent attorneys who can take care of themselves.

2. Consider Before-the-Event Insurance
It is not a crime to infringe a patent in this country. You and only you are responsible for enforcing your monopoly. You must do that through the courts which can be expensive. There is no longer legal aid for IP or other business disputes. Because most IP litigation proceeds in 2 phases it is difficult for most lawyers to accept "no win no fee" retainers, especially now that it is no longer possible to recover success fees and after-the-event insurance premiums from the losing party. You must also make provision for the costs of the other side if you are unsuccessful.  Unless you can raise at least £100,000 from your own resources you should consider before-the-event IP insurance before a dispute arises because the premiums for after-the-event insurance are astronomical (see IP Insurance Five Years On  23 Oct 2014).

3. Follow the Practice Direction - Pre-Action  Conduct
This is very important because the court has power under paragraph 4 to penalize parties who fail to comply with the Practice Direction.  Remember that the purpose of the Practice Direction is to enable parties to settle their dispute without the need to start proceedings and that litigation should be the very last resort. Make sure that your letter before claim complies with Annex A of the Practice Direction and that you supply all the information and enclose all the documents that the other side will need to decide whether you have a valid claim. Although it was published some years ago you may also find the Code of Practice for Pre-Action Conduct in Intellectual Property Disputes useful.

4.  Consider ADR (Alternative Methods of Dispute Resolution)
As a general rule the sooner you resolve your dispute the better it will be for all concerned. True, you may be able to force a settlement if the other side runs out of money before you do but then you will also have incurred costs which your opponent may not be able to pay. As I have said above, one of the aims of the Pre-Action Conduct Practice Direction is to help you settle your dispute without recourse to litigation. You can do that through direct negotiations with the other side or you can ask an intermediary known as a "mediator" to help you. He or she will collect information in confidence from each of the parties and look for common ground upon which a settlement can be based. Often the settlement is a solution that would never have occurred to either of the parties (see Mediating Disputes from the Trade Marks Registry 1 Sept 2005 NIPC Law). The Intellectual Property Office runs a good mediation service (see The IPO's New Improved Mediation Service - will it make a difference? 7 April 2013 NIPC Law) as does the World Intellectual Property Office (see ADR of Intellectual Property Disputes 22 Aug 2006 NIPC Law). If there is a bona fide dispute that only a determination by a trusted third party will resolve you may be able to obtain an opinion on the issue from an examiner of the Intellectual Property Office for as little as £200 (see Intellectual Property Act 2014: The New Law on Opinions 29 Oct 2014 NIPC Law).

5.  Budget for Litigation as you would any other Expenditure
Since April 2013 the parties to a dispute have had a duty to help the court to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost. In order to comply with that obligation most parties that are legally represented have to draw up, file and exchange budgets for conducing the litigation before the first case management conference under CPR 3.13 and the court may impose limits to the parties' expenditure if it thinks fit. There are a number of exceptions to this rule but it is a good discipline to follow even if you are not bound by it. Just as war is conducting policy by other means litigation can be said to be conducting business by other means. Just as you would plan and review any other type of expenditure with defined objectives so you should with dispute resolution. Circumstances can change in litigation just as they can in other transactions and you have to be sufficiently flexible and astute to adjust quickly to changing circumstances which may require settlement, some other form of dispute resolution or even discontinuance in certain circumstances.

6.  Choose the Right Forum for the Resolution of your Dispute
There are many forums for the resolution of IP disputes. There are the courts of England and Wales, those of other parts of the UK and the courts and tribunals of other countries. There are also Intellectual Property Office tribunals for some patent, trade mark and registered and unregistered designs disputes, the Boards of Appeal of OHIM (the EU design and trade mark registry) and the EPO (European Patent Office). There are the domain dispute resolution panels for the determination of generic and national top level domain name disputes. There are the IPO examiners' opinions which I have mentioned above for certain patent disputes and there will soon be an opinions service for registered and unregistered design disputes. There is also old fashioned arbitration and mediation. Each of those forums has its advantages and disadvantages and you should seek specialist advice or at the very least carry out extensive research before launching proceedings.

7.  Choose the Right Legal Adviser
For most cases two sets of skills are needed:
  • advocacy, and
  • the ability to conduct litigation.
Advocacy includes presenting cases to a judge or arbitrator, examining witnesses, drafting statements of case, application notices, witness statements and skeleton arguments. Until the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 higher court advocacy was the preserve of barristers but now other professionals have rights of audience. Conducting litigation means corresponding with the court and other side, filing and serving statements of case and other documents, interviewing witnesses, drawing up lists of, and exchanging, documents (including emails, texts and other electronic messages) and generally preparing the case for adjudication. Traditionally this work was done by solicitors but now barristers and patent and trade mark attorneys as well as other professionals can apply for the right to conduct litigation. Look beyond law firms' websites and brochures to discover expertise. Try to research their decided cases and publications and choose the advocate and litigator whose expertise most closely matches your needs.

8.  Do not fight Unnecessary Battles
If you are a claimant and you think the other side will not be able to compensate you in damages if you win your case you may get an order from the court known as an "interim injunction" forbidding the defendant from doing something that would infringe your IP rights until trial or further order. These are in the discretion of the court and they don't come cheap. You have to apply quickly and promise to compensate the other side for any loss or damage it may sustain if it transpires that you should never have got the order. Conversely, if you are a defendant and fear the other side can't pay your costs if you win you can get an order for the claimant to pay funds into court as security for a costs order against you. There are many other interim applications that you can make - summary judgment on the basis that the other side is unlikely to prevail at trial, specific disclosure of a document, striking out parts of the other side's statement of case and sanctions for non-compliance with a rule or order. Such applications are very expensive and can delay the progress of a case. Sometimes they are necessary but as often as not they are not and every effort should be made to avoid them. If you are a defendant do not resist reasonable requests just for the sake of it. Work out ways of meeting the other side's legitimate needs while safeguarding your interests.

9.  Comply with the Rules and Directions of the Court
This may sound like stating the obvious but it is amazing how many litigants fail to do this. The courts have extensive powers to penalize some of which are quite drastic. For instance if you fail to file a costs budget in time you will be deemed to have filed a budget requesting reimbursement only of your court fees and you will be precluded from recovering your counsel and solicitors' fees which could amount to tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.

10. Keep Talking
Even if settlement negotiations fail you are still likely to have much to discuss with the other side. It is in your interest to agree facts, define and limit issues and other procedural matters because it simplifies the process and reduces the bills you may well have to pay. One of the reasons for instructing solicitors and counsel is to keep open a channel of communication between the parties. As I said above, circumstances can change for both sides and you are more likely to learn of those changes if you keep in touch with your opponents.

If you want to discuss this or any other matter connected with enforcement give me a ring on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or message me through my contact form. You can also contact me through Facebook, G+. Linkedin, twitter or Xing.